Face-to-face shutdown ‘inevitable’
COVID spike in February shattered resumption index, says JTA
Prime Minister Andrew Holness had no choice but to suspend face-to-face classes for students preparing to sit external examinations in the wake of an unprecedented wave of COVID-19 cases islandwide.
That is the view of Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President Jasford Gabriel, who argues that health and safety were compelling factors for the cessation of in-person classes for students in grades six, 11, 12, and 13.
“In our estimation, the decision to close face-to-face classes was inevitable,” Gabriel told The Gleaner on Monday.
The restriction on face-to-face classes for students slated to sit external examinations was among several preventive measures and curfew orders announced during a press briefing on Sunday. The new measures, which are set to expire on April 13, are part of efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, for which 35,896 infections have been recorded to date.
Improve access to internet
Gabriel believes that access to computers and seamless Internet connectivity for online schooling needs more attention amid the yawning learning loss identified by education stakeholders.
“We must raise the level of awareness re the possible benefits of online modalities while continuously improving access and devices for our teachers and students,” Gabriel said.
The JTA president said that the vulnerability index spearheaded by Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr was “shattered” by the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in early February. That index assessed a mix of factors such as social and geographic indicators.
“This reality has been the case, along with ongoing concerns in the transportation sector, illegal gatherings that include our students, the generally high percentage of asymptomatic cases amongst school-age students, no random testing in schools, and the immense pressure that is now on our health system,” added Gabriel.
Meanwhile, Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA) President Dr Faithlyn Wilson wants the Government to outline what measures will be taken to help private schools’ recovery amid the present COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our major concern at the moment is that, given the kind of impact that this situation is having on private schools, that the Government would come forward and say, ‘This is the kind of support we are going to provide to private schools, and to those schools’ parents and children, to ensure the sector recovers,’” said Wilson.