Fri | Dec 3, 2021

Interest groups call for urgent reopening of schools

Published:Monday | October 25, 2021 | 9:59 AM
“All our children – especially the most disadvantaged – deserve more focused attention and better learning opportunities than remote education can offer. This is critical for their development, safety and well-being."

Several organisations have issued an open letter calling for the Government to urgently reopen schools to face-to-face teaching and to share plans for learning loss recovery and more resilience in the education system as COVID-19 continues.

The letter is co-signed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), National Parent-Teachers Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Jamaica Employers Federation and the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica.

The group argues that Jamaica's children have lost an estimated 1.3 billion in-class hours over 19 months of physical school closures.

It is further being argued that the learning loss is staggering with the most vulnerable children who struggle to access remote education have been hit the hardest.

“The education of our children cannot be delayed any more. As we face the biggest education crisis of our history, we must consider the cost of our inaction. That price is too high for our children to pay. The cost will continue to affect Jamaica's development prospects for generations.  We have no more time to lose,” the group asserted.

Against that background, the organisations say the Government should move to urgently have the safe reopening of schools to face-to-face teaching and to remove any barriers that stand in the way, including vaccination targets for schools. 

“All our children – especially the most disadvantaged – deserve more focused attention and better learning opportunities than remote education can offer.

“This is critical for their development, safety and well-being.  Schools can be fully and safely re-opened. This has been done elsewhere, and we can do it too.”

The group is also calling for the government to articulate effective and evidence-based strategies and implementation plans to ensure that the education system delivers a comprehensive recovery response.

Effective remedial learning, psychosocial interventions, targeted and relevant social safety net provisions and ongoing support for teachers to address the needs of the children should be central to these efforts, the organisations charged.

Further, the group wants the government to put in place the policies and resources necessary to make the country's education system more resilient. 

“Our education system needs to be prepared for emerging and dynamic threats and we must work across sectors to achieve resilience. Plans for risk mitigation and disaster risk management and response must be relevant, flexible and scalable. They also need to be adequately funded.”

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