KINGSTON, Jamaica: PNP Shadow Minister of Education & Training, Dr. Angela Brown Burke is insisting that all public schools should be reopened. She suggests that this could be achieved through a variety of methods, which include dividing classes into smaller groups so that every student can attend in-person classes for at least one day per week.
Dr. Brown Burke said, “Despite the mismanagement of the Pfizer vaccine distribution, our children’s education cannot continue to be placed on hold. A generation of children is at risk of irreversible learning loss, malnutrition and poor mental health outcomes.” All of us should be concerned about the growing inequality amongst children, as too many of them remain out of school without any access to structured education.
Dr. Brown Burke is also suggesting that the Minister appoints social workers and additional guidance counsellors to ensure that the psycho-social needs of our children are met.
In addition, the Opposition Spokesperson is demanding that all arrangements for the re-opening of schools begin no later than next week and that the following steps be taken immediately:
- Development of a coordinated approach by the Ministries of Education, Transport and Works and Health for a transportation plan to minimize crowding and exposure for students using public transportation.
- Utilize the plans developed over a year ago, by school administrations, MOEYI and Ministry of Health officials which determined the maximum capacity of each classroom while observing physical distancing guidelines.
- Enforce strict adherence to covid protocols such as mask-wearing, hand washing and sanitizing.
- Ensure that parents/guardians are aware of and satisfied with the arrangements.
- Parents/guardians should be given the option of having students participate in online classes, only if they have underlying conditions. Parents should agree to keep children at home if they feel sick or are showing any of the listed symptoms of Covid-19.
In the meantime, Dr. Brown Burke is expressing concern with the lack of technological infrastructure available in some communities, which causes major hindrance to participation in school. The Opposition, therefore, recommends that principals consider allowing groups of students during specified hours to use school facilities to complete their work. She notes that this arrangement would have to be carefully managed by schools.