KINGSTON, Jamaica: Shadow Minister of Education and Training Dr. Angela Brown Burke is raising questions over a statement by the Minister of Education that schools will reopen three (3) weeks before the original start date of September 6, 2021. In particular, she is concerned that the first two (2) weeks will be exclusively virtual and therefore, the most at-risk will lose an additional two (2) weeks of critical education.
Parents, teachers and the public are naturally concerned about the reopening of schools, as such, Dr. Brown Burke is urging the Minister to clarify the intended plan for reopening. She is also reiterating that a clear approach for at-risk students (those performing below grade level, those who were not effectively engaged during the last school year and those with unique learning styles) be articulated.
Dr. Brown Burke is impressing upon the Minister, the need to set specific targets, in consultation with teachers and principals, to allow all stakeholders to monitor progress against established goals, and actively participate in our children’s education. This, she insists, is a path to building true national partnership in education.
With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Brown Burke is insisting that the Minister’s plan must account for a high number of COVID-19 infections (which are likely over the next few weeks). She said, “So far, the Ministry has not demonstrated that they recognize the importance of face-to-face engagement for many of our students. As the Ministry prepares for a blended approach, it is important that all our schools can effectively and consistently deliver virtual learning as well as safely accommodate face-to-face engagement”. She is therefore calling on the Minister to ensure that necessary repairs are done and that all infrastructural improvements are completed to best support our students and teachers.
Students and parents are already anxious about the upcoming school year, and the raft of price and fare increases is adding further trepidation. Against this background, Dr. Brown Burke is calling for financial support to be provided to parents in need.
In closing, Dr. Brown Burke shared, “I am pleased to see the Minister acknowledge that 68% of our public school teachers have been vaccinated. This indicates a better uptake than the general population. Let’s continue to engage and encourage them to increase that number.