Sat | Jul 4, 2020

Shift system suggested for schools

Published:Saturday | June 6, 2020 | 12:24 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Foster Allen
Foster Allen

FORMER PERMANENT secretary in the Ministry of Education, Elaine Foster Allen, said a combination of shift system, distant learning and alliances with local organisations will need to be considered in preparation for the new school term.

Foster Allen, who is now an education consultant, made the suggestion during a COVID-19: rethinking education forum organised by WE-CHANGE yesterday. The seasoned educator said that ministry officials and school leaders will have to adopt new ways of dealing with their students.

“We have to contend with staffing. The ratios that have been used will have been changed. I am talking about at the Ministry of Education level,” she advised.

She said that school leaders will need to look at funding and infrastructural arrangements. Foster Allen urged them to also conduct a space audit to determine the placement of children.

“Principals will have to go outside of their own physical spaces to make alliances with churches, community organisations, community centres and so on as well as reconsider the old Jamaican shift system, because you are not going to get 1,000 children in the spaces, or 500 or 800, whatever the numbers we are talking about, into the existing space,” she lamented.

Civil society advocate Carol Narcisse has suggested that a national appeal be made for retired teachers to assist. She also suggested that consideration should be given to allow final-year teachers at teachers’ colleges to be deployed to schools to provide support. Community members, she said, should be used in the schools to carry out functions such as manning students during lunch and break times.

Education consultant Renee Rattray feels that while COVID-19 has affected everyone, it has also been a gift to educators in some ways.

“In education, we have a lot of catching up to do, in terms of being opened to changing the way we do things. Many of our schoolrooms look the same way as they did 50 years ago and I think that we have to play catch-up,” she said.