The buzz around back-to-school activities has been very intense in recent days as summer holidays come to an end and students get ready to start school or return to the classroom.
Shopping kicked into high gear, but the last-minute rush tells a story of its own. As the economic hardship takes hold, many parents, particularly those living on the minimum wage or those who are jobless, are obviously feeling the pinch and were only able to deal with their shopping list in the final days.
Corporate Jamaica has rallied to the cause in a huge way by staging back-to-school fairs in many parts of the country, where they have offered the most needy students scholarships and bursaries, as well as uniforms and other school supplies.
Of course, this is only part of the requirement. The general upkeep of a student, including lunch, bus fares and extra-curricular activities, could run into many thousands of dollars. Parents' responsibility does not end at equipping a child for school, there is the need for parents to become involved in their children's scholastic life and to stay on top of behaviour, schoolwork and attendance.
While we anticipate some of the age-old problems affecting the delivery of education to emerge in the 2013-2014 school year, there is something that was not quite anticipated this year. This relates to the number of high-school students who are seeking to continue their education at the sixth-form level. It was recently revealed that many of these students have not found places in the schools.
Hopefully, the Ministry of Education will be able to come up with a workable solution so that these students are given an opportunity to climb the very next ladder in their goal for successful scholarship.
One of the major challenges is how to prevent, or even anticipate, the kind of school violence which has claimed lives at different institutions. What does it take to keep children safe in schools? Is the answer electronic surveillance or armed guards? Is the Ministry of Education giving school administrators the safety tools required?
From time to time, we hear of schools being targeted by robberies that bleed them of scarce resources. The question must be asked: How can communities come together and resolve to keep school property protected? For any community to remain viable, it must invest in the well-being of the next generation.
The country is often reminded about the failure of the majority of our students to turn out great performances in science and mathematics. Teachers should use this new school year to reaffirm their commitment to their students, including those who exhibit behavioural or emotional problems.
Teachers need to pay attention to the students with the greatest need by delivering to them the kind of teaching that will promote growth and mastery, which help to form the foundation for their academic success.
Even with the rusting infrastructure in many of our schools, Jamaica still expects to see dramatically improved student performance. That job can only be achieved with commitment and input from all stakeholders.
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