Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has urged teachers to take time out to bond with their students when the next school year begins in September.
Thwaites, who was addressing scores of teachers and principals during an education conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday, urged teachers to "put down the chalk and dusters" and try to identify the social challenges facing students before moving into the curriculum.
"When you start school in September, do not start with the curriculum right away, take the time to know your students, take the time to find out if they have breakfast in the morning when they come. Take the time to find out if they need a pair of glasses or hearing aid," Thwaites urged.
The education minister said there was need also for the Ministry of Health to work more in tandem with his office, adding that quite often it is the physical and emotional challenges that are impacting students' ability to learn.
"We are expecting that the Ministry of Health will link with us to do more intensive testing of our children because very often their physical and emotional conditions and social reality militates against the effectiveness of what you try to do in the classroom."
Church's past impact
In the meantime, the minister also called on the Church to play a greater role in the lives of children in schools.
While highlighting the impact of the Church on the education system in the past, Thwaites said it had absconded its duty to impart values on children in the system.
"It is a truth that since the 1920's when government exerted further influence in the education system through the grant-in-aid system ... that the churches have, to some extent, taken their hands off the education system. I say to the representative of the churches and the church schools today, take back your schools," the minister declared.