On Tuesday Jamaica recorded the 5,270th COVID-19 case and 75 deaths, this caused the Minister to announce in a virtual Press Conference, that it would not be practical for Jamaican students to have face-to-face instructions in classrooms. Even though October 5th was the day that was decided on for the students to return to the classrooms, there has been changes to the way this will be done. The number of COVID-19 cases increased and the Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams made some adjustments.
The Minister explained the three approaches planned, to be taken to facilitate learning by the students.
The online approach in which students will stay at home and access lessons via the education ministry’s Learning Management System (LMS) where the teachers and students will interact virtually.
The students will access the lessons after the teachers teach online, the lessons will be recorded and students will access the lessons, at a time that is convenient to them, as many times as they want to. It was pointed out that this approach will help the students to improve their mastery of the subjects. Some 20,000 teachers have been trained and they can now use the online LMS cloud-based system.
The second approach, includes the provision of lessons or the platform for lessons on television, cable and radio. Television Jamaica or TVJ and CVM TV will provide a 24-hour channel that is dedicated to education alongside the cable company Ready TV will be ready to start broadcasting on October 5, 2020.
Students will be in classes via TV, cable or radio that the ministry provides and the schedule that they will use.
The third part of the plan involves the ministry providing printed materials for students to use along with their work sheets and textbooks. The material will be delivered for the students at agreed drop off points and at their homes. This approach is particularly applies to students who has no internet access.
The minister also noted that some principals had expressed that in deep rural areas they wanted to have some amount of face-to-face interaction, especially where there is no internet access, in order to facilitate the students who will be sitting examination, and in cases where there might be a lack of proper supervision at their homes. The ministry will be guided by the information that is related to health, there will be a completion of the health inspections in the schools, overtime, this depends on how we all get through the pandemic. Taking students back into the class rooms in a safe way will be determined by the spread or the reduction in the number of Jamaicans that are diagnosed with Covid-19.
She recognized the importance of getting students back into a learning mode and pointed out that with only 9,234 out of the 32,617 students who sat the CSEC examinations passed five or more subjects, including English language and mathematics, Williams revealed in the press conference. She also pointed out the fears are high as Covid-19 is very contagious.
Schools will be considered reopened on October 5, 2020 in order to deliver formal education to student, but the important question is which one of the approaches will schools use to deliver the teaching and learning experience for the education of students to continue. It is possible that some teachers might use more than 1 approach, as they try to keep the students safe.
The President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, Jasford Gabriel, and other stakeholders had objected to face to face interaction in classroom, he is also a member of the ministry’s newly-established E-COVID Management Taskforce. A task force was brought together in order to guide the safe reopening of the schools but teachers and other stakeholders in schools argued that since the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 virus was high, and it is possible that some students and teachers could have pre-existing conditions, there would be no way to ensure the safety of everyone.
The ministry made plans for the reopening of schools which included different approaches such as face-to-face class engagement; face-to-face and remote learning and full remote learning., last Friday.
It has been over six months since Jamaican students have been away from the classroom. Schools were closed on March 13th, three days after the first of the Covid-19 case was confirmed on the island.
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