Editorial: School reform and building communities
Two education-related events that occurred in the parish of Trelawny this week deserve our attention and comment. One relates to the closing of a primary school and the other concerns the opening of two new libraries.
Closing a school is a decision that requires a great deal of thought and can be quite controversial. However, in this case, we feel the decision made by the Ministry of Education is a rational one.
Declining enrolment and poor academic performance are two elements that help to influence the shuttering of an educational institution. It cannot be feasible to have barely 50 students enrolled in a primary school, as in this case. This low enrolment is, of course, linked to the declining population in the harsh, mountainous area of Trelawny ? and that is not something that will change anytime soon. This school would continue to struggle to grow student population.
With the enrolment decline at the Alps Primary School, it becomes burdensome for the Ministry of Education to finance an underutilised facility. Empty seats and empty classrooms still have to be maintained, so the ministry will obviously save on operating and capital costs by closing this school.
Now is perhaps a good time for the ministry to take an audit of all public schools to assess whether merging some, or closing others, will guarantee better outcomes for the students who now attend these schools.
We recognise that closing the Alps school will cause some disruption and will require adjustments by teachers, students and parents. One of the greatest negative impacts may be economic, if their new enrolment requires children to travel greater distances. However, we believe the students are likely to be better served by attending more successful and better-utilised schools in the area. We hope they will be given the necessary assistance to allow for a smooth transition.
Although the events took place in different parts of the parish, we applaud the ministry and the European Union for erecting these libraries at a time when shrinking budgets do not always accord priority to public facilities such as libraries. In fact, libraries have almost become obsolete in some developed communities.
Public libraries like the one erected in Clark?s Town can have a positive impact on a community, for they not only provide access to information, they also encourage reading as a habit as they strengthen neighbourhoods. The fact is that libraries can become the focal point for literacy and education, which are the building blocks for vibrant communities.
In this digital age, many households are equipped with Internet-linked computers, iPads and other devices, so many persons can find most information on their own. Yet there are many persons, especially in rural Jamaica, who have no Internet access and would welcome the use of a library, with assistance from the staff.
The people of Clark?s Town and its environs should recognise that this spanking-new library can help spur enlightenment and energy in the community. They should not see it merely as a building with several rows of books and reading materials, but as a centre for cultural and educational opportunities. We urge the citizens to make full use of the facilities to identify and mobilise the many resources that exist in their community and exploit them.