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Latest figures trigger concern in education sector

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2021 | 12:30 AM
Linvern Wright.
Linvern Wright.

High-school principals are insisting on a revision of the face-to-face policy as the health authorities deal with a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases in the island.

Linvern Wright, president of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, says there was “significant concern” among his colleagues.

“It’s a policy I expect the Government to review, given what is happening, because, as we know, health and life come first,” said Wright, who is also principal of the William Knibb Memorial High School in Trelawny.

“I’m expecting very soon some kind of consultation to review, and I’m expecting that very urgently.”

David Wilson, the headmaster at Clarendon College, said his school has suspended its face-to-face operations after a case was confirmed among the student population on January 28.

He, too, believes that additional caution and guidance is needed with continuing the face-to-face approach.

“There has to be a change,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

“The challenge we have in our parts is that the Internet access is a big challenge. When we have the online system [only], we’re not reaching even 50 per cent of our students. We are, as with most rural schools, continually disadvantaged,” Wilson added.

With the resumption of face-to-face classes last month, attendance at the Chapelton-based school was 75 to 85 per cent.

Austin Wright, principal of Jose Marti Technical High School in St Catherine, is wary about further restrictions, however, arguing that efforts should be made to accommodate senior students, despite the worrying situation about COVID-19 spread.

“Let me hear what the Ministry of Education would have on the table, and the examination body, and then we can review in order to make decisions,” he said.

“What will we do if our students are not given the exam, and how will they enter the universities and the colleges?”

Minister of Education Fayval Williams told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday that: “We constantly monitor our schools and also collaborate with school administration to ensure that our children are safe. Jamaica is in the phase of community spread so it is not surprising that cases will occur.

“With our risk ranking system and the proactive approach of our schools, we are happy that where issues arise, they are dealt with appropriately with the safety of our students and staff at the forefront of our minds.”

Belair High in Manchester and St Thomas Technical High are among the latest institutions to have halted in-person school after teachers or students contracted the virus.