Opposition wants students back in schools

October 12, 2021
Dr Angela Brown Burke,  opposition spokesperson on education, speaking at a press conference called by the People’s National Party yesterday.
Dr Angela Brown Burke, opposition spokesperson on education, speaking at a press conference called by the People’s National Party yesterday.

Angela Brown Burke, the opposition spokesperson on education, is urging the Andrew Holness-led Government to adapt and implement policies used by other countries that will facilitate the phased reopening of schools.

Brown Burke, who was speaking at a People's National Party press conference yesterday, stressed the need for students to return to face-to-face classes after enduring more than 20 months of online classes.

"All the data that we have show that online school just has not worked for us here in Jamaica. And we are not different from the rest of the world, or America or the Caribbean. We pretended that online school worked and we came to the beginning of [20]21 and again we pretended that if we said we were doing online school that kids were learning, that we were somehow solving the problem. What the research and practice have shown [is] that there are issues around devices connectivity and family support and around infrastructure of our schools and the upskilling of our teachers so that they could be comfortable, and all of that on the inequity of the education system, reading performance was below for many students," Brown Burke said.

The member of parliament for St Andrew South West added that face-to-face learning is the best option and said that there is less than 50 per cent engagement of students in the online modality.

"The first thing we say to the minister of education is that one size does not fit all and what that means is that they are going to have to have consultations with our principals and teachers and bring them into the decision-making process of deciding the way forward," she said. "In many other jurisdictions, they have a framework and so they understand what are the factors that would bring them in school and at what level. We have not been having that conversation in Jamaica. And I do know that when it comes to education, uppermost importance on people's mind is about transmission and the possibility of overcrowding in the classroom and how to prevent transmission and the other is about transportation, how we bring our students to school and how we then teach them," she explained.

Brown Burke said the ministry needs to get in consultation with community centres and church halls to host school sessions, should the sector reopen for face-to-face learning. She said when classes resume, social distancing will be implemented and groups will have to be smaller.

Additionally, she said there was a need for partnership with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company and small transport operators to see how students will be transported in a safe way. Brown Burke also joined with opposition spokesperson on health Dr Morais Guy to chide the Government for its handling of the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, that was initially designated for children over 12 years old.

Other News Stories