COVID-19 hurt education last term – Samuda
While Prime Minister Andrew Holness had earlier this year refused to admit that a full school term has been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Minister Karl Samuda has acknowledged that many students did not receive adequate lessons up to July in the last school year.
“We have been through a rough period and it’s no use trying to fool ourselves, many of our children, between March and July, did not get the required access to education,” Samuda told delegates at the just-concluded 56th annual conference Jamaica Teacher’s Association in Montego Bay, St James. “Anything to the contrary is just pure fiction.”
Shortly after the first case of the coronavirus was diagnosed in Jamaica, Holness ordered that all schools, from early-childhood to secondary, be closed on March 13, as part of the nation’s containment measures to blunt the spread of the virus.
This decision resulted in school administrators and teachers scrambling to provide lessons to their students using online platforms and other methods, including dropping off lessons at police stations and post offices in the areas without Internet service and then returning for them.
Samuda, who was not the portfolio minister at the time, but was serving in an acting capacity when schools were ordered closed, said public schoolteachers were unable to connect with up to 31,000 students via the Internet, as the service is not available in many communities.
“They (students) will now have to make up for time lost, and that will depend on how vigilant we are in ensuring that they are protected [during] face-to-face [sessions] and to make sure that the facilities are in place to enable them if they have to go the distance-learning route,” said Samuda.
In May, Holness, who was the then minister of education, intimated that education was taking place, albeit limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know that education is taking place in the country. We also know that there are areas that are not served by the Internet or access by other remote methods, and we are working with great speed and alacrity to have that done,” Holness said in an interview at the time.
However, Samuda, in his new role as the appointed minister of education, said the ministry, and the Government by extension, would have learned critical lessons during the last term.
“We have learned by some of the mistakes made earlier in our COVID-19 response. We know where the gaps are now, and we are working actively to address them,” said Samuda. “The ministry has been able to use the lessons learnt during the period of remote engagement from March to July.”