Kingston 14 July 2020 – A team of six students from the University of Technology, the University of the West Indies Mona and Northern Caribbean University has won the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) inaugural Development Challenge competition with their standout pitch designed to keep students digitally connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The winning team was declared on Friday 10 July, final day of the ‘Ready Reset Recharge’ youth webinar series convened by the UNDP Multi Country Office in Jamaica in partnership with the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Research (SALISES) of the University of the West Indies, and planned and led by several youth and student organizations in Jamaica. The series encouraged students to find their own solutions to COVID-related challenges and was inspired by issues highlighted in UNDP’s special report: COVID-19 and Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery.
The six members of the winning ‘Team Reducing Inequalities in Education (focus on technology and connectivity)’ are: Davion Brown, University of Technology, Jamaica; Navaida Green, Northern Caribbean University; Petrona Peart, Northern Caribbean University; Shertonio Byfield, Northern Caribbean University; Johnoi Elliston, The University of the West Indies, and Christina Williams, The University of the West Indies. They have been awarded places in UNDP’s paid internship programme at its Jamaica Office. In making the pitch, team leader Christina Williams of UWI Mona explained that the group’s idea branded “Covinnected” is a standardization model by students for students to ensure equitable digital access throughout the education system. She said the group wants to pitch ‘Covinnected’ to government through UNDP to ensure no student is left behind. Ms. Williams, in defining the standout features, noted that ‘Covinnected’ was a comprehensive model guaranteeing access to devices, access to the internet, ability to manoeuvre platforms and ability to connect to stakeholders as required. The two other themes addressed by competing teams in the Challenge were: (1) Enabling environment for Jobs and Skills of the future; and (2) leveraging your networks and resources to support youth in preparing for future climate and pandemic shocks.
Youth delegates also considered the Ready Reset Recharge Resolution which outlines a youth-led response to COVID-19 focused on advocating for a Digital Economy and Society; improvements to the education sector; increased considerations for the future world of work; and Increased action to reduce the impacts of shocks and crises. The resolution will be further reviewed by student organization members of the event steering committee.
UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio congratulated the winning team for a job well done. She noted that the three areas explored by delegates and Challenge competitors and accorded considerable weight in their draft Ready Reset Recharge Resolution will establish a solid advocacy agenda for future action by all youth represented at the series. “UNDP gives you our word that we will stand with you as you push for policy and behavioural change designed to get young people suitably prepared to mitigate, adapt and overcome shocks and crises such as COVID and Climate Change,” she declared.
She urged youth delegates to remember that their voice and participation in decision-making is critical. “Use and amplify it, so that Jamaica and the entire world benefits. I urge you to be bold ... this is the beginning of your mission to recharge youth networks to triumph in an extraordinary time of crisis and opportunity. I am confident you can do it as you are ready to translate visions and dreams into reality.”
University Director of SALISES, Professor Aldrie Henry Lee, in welcoming the deliberations of the students noted that the impact of COVID-19 has been detrimental to the education, health, employment and social protection of young people. “Notwithstanding these challenges, this current pandemic presents an opportunity to rethink how we implement youth development and ensure we achieve meaningful youth participation and engagement”, she declared.
Student and youth groups joining forces on the Ready Reset Recharge webinar series were, University of the West Indies Mona Campus Student Guild; University of Technology Jamaica Students’ Union; Northern Caribbean University’s United Students’ Movement; Commonwealth Youth Council; National Youth Council of Jamaica; Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students; UWI STAT (Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow) Ambassador Corps; Young People for Action on Climate Change, Jamaica; and the Mona Association of Postgraduate Students (MAPS).