120,000 students missing from classes over the last year
Nadine Wilson-Harris, Staff Reporter
More than 120,000 students across Jamaica have been absent from classes in the last year as teaching became accessible primarily online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams, attributed this high level of truancy to several factors, including illness, rain, monthly problems, and no classes being held by schools.
“In terms of illness, when you look at the statistics, asthma is a huge issue for our students,” said Williams during today's post-Cabinet press briefing.
“They are not engaged online, they are not watching TV, they are not listening to the radio, they are not opening their books, they are not in contact with their schools; even though teachers try to find them, they can't find them,” she said of the absent students.
Williams said that initiatives were introduced to engage these students.
These include the launch of a mobile intervention programme that involved dispatching instructors in the communities to find students and teach them in groups of five for approximately 90 minutes twice weekly.
That programme was, however, halted due to the spike in COVID-19 cases and the subsequent suspension of face-to-face classes.
“We know that there are many challenges facing students and parents. We know that not everyone has proper connectivity and even in cases where they do, they might not have the money for the data plans and so on,” Williams said.
Face-to-face classes will resume as of May 10 for students sitting exit and external exams in more than 350 schools.
This includes those sitting the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), City & Guilds, and the National Vocational Qualification.
Data from the ministry has indicated that a significant number of the current cohort have not been submitting their School Based Assessments (SBAs).
In previous years, over 90 per cent of the SBAs would have been completed by end of March, but a survey conducted on April 8, has shown that only about 15 per cent of CSEC schools and 26 per cent of CAPE schools have had at least 70 per cent of the SBAs completed.
Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.