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Education Minister Gives Firm Commitment to the Care and Protection of Children

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, has underscored the Ministry’s unwavering commitment to the care and protection of children.

She pointed out that the Ministry is collaborating with the Children’s Affairs Policy Division and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) to increase public awareness of every child’s rights, empower children with information related to their rights and responsibilities, celebrate and affirm children and promote positive engagement, heighten public awareness of the issues negatively affecting children and the impact these have on their development, and steps to be taken to address these issues.

The Minister said this is being done in conjunction with the National Child Month Committee (NCMC).

She was speaking at the Saxthorpe Methodist Church on Constant Spring Road in Kingston, on May 5 at the National Church Service to mark the beginning of the activities for Child Month 2024.

The theme for the Month is ‘Stand up! Speak out! Protect the Rights of our Children’.

The Minister emphasised the important role of parents, guardians, relatives, and society in nurturing, guiding, and protecting children, the future of the nation.

A series of activities designed to achieve these outcomes were announced, including the National Child Online Protection Forum on the importance of protecting the children in online spaces, the Child Conversation – Special Edition for children with special needs, a Wellness Bench Lyme – Child Conversation in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Child Month Poster Competition for the children in State care, a Child Management Day – engaging wards of the State in shadowing professionals at the CPFSA, and the Annual Prayer Brunch.

One notable initiative is the ‘31 Days of Children’s Rights’ campaign, launched on the Ministry’s social media platforms, aimed at disseminating vital information on children’s rights.

As the Month unfolds, Jamaicans are encouraged to participate in these events and remain steadfast advocates for children’s well-being.

10,000 Computers Distributed to High Schools

A total of 10,000 computers have been distributed to high schools as part of a programme to upgrade technology laboratories at the institutions.

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, made the disclosure during her contribution to the 2024 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 8).

She noted that the computers were facilitated through e-Learning Jamaica (e-LJAM).

“We have done this in record time in one school year. It is the good policies of this Government and the consistent good performance of revenues that has created the budget space to allow us to take on these massive technology upgrades and broadband connectivity across the length and breadth of the education sector,” Mrs. Williams said.

Through e-LJAM, some 25,700 teachers have received e-vouchers to procure a laptop, with 24,000 teachers redeeming their vouchers.

“I implore the teachers who have not yet redeemed their vouchers to do so quickly. The Ministry of Education and Youth is committed to a fit-for-purpose school learning infrastructure,” the Education Minister said.

“Let us not divorce what we have been able to provide to our schools from the consistent excellent budget figures of this Government,” she added.

School Boards to Be Modernised

School boards across Jamaica are set to undergo a modernisation process, following the development of a revised set of procedures.

The updated procedures are in keeping with the recommendations of the Professor Orlando Patterson-chaired Jamaica Education Transformation Commission (JETC), which has put forward some 365 actions for the improvement of the education sector.

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, in her contribution to the 2024/25 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 8) said that the revised measures require a review of the performance of school boards at the end of each board cycle, with the introduction of a monitoring and evaluation framework.

“It calls on us to train school board members, streamline the current school governance arrangements and to acknowledge our school board members,” she said.

She noted that there is a proven and positive relationship between effective governance and student performance.

“Good governance is a key element in the ability to steer an education system as complex and young as Jamaica’s with multiple actors each playing varied roles. We want to ensure quality education and we know that it depends on the existence of good governance,” she said.

Mrs. Williams pointed out that school board members constitute one of the largest group of volunteers in Jamaica.

“They total almost 10,000 and they give many hours and, oftentimes, they give of their own resources to help our schools. They have the responsibility for ensuring fidelity to the Education Act and Regulation. It is against this background that the service they provide is valued and acknowledged,” she said.

Mrs. Williams noted that the National Council on Education, which has overall responsibility for the governance portfolio, is working to strengthen school boards across Jamaica.

“We are undergoing a strategic review of the National Council currently, because their job is an important one,” she said.

Education Ministry to Replace 30% of Security Cameras in Schools

The Ministry of Education and Youth has started the process of replacing 30 per cent of security cameras within schools.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, made the disclosure during her contribution to the 2024/25 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on May 8.

Based on a recent survey, 154 schools have installed a total of 1,955 cameras.

“Cameras are deployed in schools to help us detect and deter. We have started to replace approximately 30 per cent of them, so we have better technology,” Mrs. Williams said.

“We have embarked on a significant procurement of cameras in order to outfit all our schools with CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras. We should be able to put out the tender by the first term of the next school year,” she added.

Mrs. Williams also noted that the Ministry is committed to continue taking proactive measures to prevent violence, respond effectively to incidents and support those affected.

Education Minister Calls for Culture of Respect, Empathy and Non-Violence among Students

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, has emphasised the importance of fostering a culture of respect, empathy and non-violence among students and within the school environment.

She said there must be a collective commitment to finding positive and constructive ways to resolve disputes and conflicts in schools.

The Minister was speaking during a visit to Irwin High School, in St. James, on April 24, in the wake of a stabbing incident which resulted in the death of a student.

Mrs. Williams said the Government is unwavering in its commitment to support initiatives that promote peaceful conflict resolution and ensure the safety and well-being of all students.

The Minister said it has been a difficult task processing the unfortunate and tragic stabbing incident, emphasising that there is nothing normal about the loss of a student’s life at the hands of another student.

She pointed to the gravity of the situation, where the potential loss extends beyond the victim to include the accused student facing trial.

“As I stated in Parliament, this is just a tragic situation…just sadness all around. It is devastating for the family, the school community, and Jamaica as a whole, when a child kills another child. It should cause us to look within ourselves as parents, as a community, as an education sector, and as a society,” the Minister said.

“We must take a long hard look at this to ensure that we get this right…that something like this never happens again. Yes, there may be factors that contribute to the belief among some children that the answer to their frustration in human interactions is to lash out with violence. We must change that mindset,” she added.

The Minister conveyed her heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased student, acknowledging the profound impact of such a tragic event on the entire school community and Jamaica as a whole.

“We cannot accept such violence as a normal part of school life. Every student deserves to feel safe, respected and valued in their learning environment. We must work together to address the root causes of conflict and violence, and to create a culture of peace and understanding in our schools,” she said.

Mrs. Williams pledged the Ministry’s full support and assistance to the affected school community, assuring stakeholders that every effort would be made to investigate the incident thoroughly, provide counselling and support services to students and staff, and implement measures to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The Minister also highlighted the collaboration with the Ministry of Justice on initiatives aimed at promoting restorative justice and peaceful conflict resolution.

She emphasised the importance of working together across Ministries to address the complex social issues that contribute to violence and conflict in schools and communities.

“We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Justice to promote restorative justice practices and provide training and support to schools in conflict resolution techniques. It is essential that we equip our students with the skills and tools they need to resolve disputes peacefully and constructively,” the Minister said.

Gov’t Budgets $635 Million for Tertiary Scholarships

The Ministry of Education and Youth has, this year, budgeted approximately $635 million for scholarships to assist students to pursue tertiary education.

The was disclosed by Permanent Secretary, Dr. Kasan Troupe, who attended the opening ceremony for the second staging of the Ministry’s Tertiary Education Recruitment Drive at the National Stadium on Friday (April 26).

“I want our students to know that through the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, the Ministry of Education and Youth has been resourced with financial support of approximately $635 million in our budget to assist this year with scholarships,” she said.

Students may visit [email protected] for details on how to apply for scholarships.

The portal, which has been open since April 1, closes on June 30.

Dr. Troupe told JIS News that of the sum, $200 million will be allocated to provide financial assistance for tertiary education through the constituency framework.

“We have taken a strategic decision to… make sure there is a spread right across the country by [giving help to students] through the constituency framework. So the Members of Parliament have an opportunity to [assist]; they can refer students [who] come into their area and need assistance.

The constituency base is a place they go to for help; so they have enabled that base to help our students to pursue their dreams,” she added.

The Education Ministry has commenced implementing the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission’s recommendations for the overall improvement of the public education system. One such focus area is tertiary education.

The Ministry’s Tertiary Unit has partnered with the Public Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs) to host a series of recruitment drives under the theme: ‘On the Road to Unlocking Your Future… Join the Tertiary Recruitment Drive’.

The objectives of the exercise are to support increased access to tertiary education for Jamaicans, to expose students to the programme offerings of the PHEIs.

The drive, which runs from April 19 to May 3, will showcase these offerings with the aim of increasing enrollment numbers in the PHEIs.

Students Encouraged to Make Physical Activity a Healthy Lifestyle Habit

Students are being encouraged by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, to make physical activity a healthy lifestyle habit.

He urges them to identify an engagement that they can actively participate in daily, particularly something they enjoy.

“If you like running, run around the house; if you like walking, go out and walk for half an hour. If you like swimming and you can, do a little swimming; and if you like hiking, go and hike,” the Minister said.

He was speaking during Friday’s (April 26) National School Moves Day event at Manchester High School in Mandeville.

Dr. Tufton noted that a significant number of young people have been enticed by technology to the extent where they are largely preoccupied with devices, such as smartphones, rather than physically interacting with friends and colleagues.

He said this is compounded by their exposure to attractively packaged ultra-processed foods that are advertised through media outlets they regularly access which, in instances, have enticed them to spend more time snacking rather than engaging in activities consistent with healthier lifestyles.

Dr. Tufton noted that this level of inactivity and nutritional choices are resulting in too many young people now suffering from lifestyle diseases, citing diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity among the most common of these.

“All of these things are going to affect them in years to come. So while they may not feel it now, as their parents, guardians, teachers and administrators, we need to do more to encourage children to go outside, leave the smart phones and get off the Internet to avoid some of the… greasy, salty sugary, fatty ultra-processed snacks… and get back to the basic [healthy] lifestyle,” he underscored.

Dr. Tufton also encouraged teachers to take steps in ensuring that children leave the classroom during breaks and go outdoors to engage in physical activities, as long as these are healthy and wholesome, adding that this “will be good for them.”

Meanwhile, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Hon. Marsha Smith, encouraged the students to embrace and recognise the importance of National School Moves Day.

She said one of the best ways to safeguard themselves against lifestyle diseases is by engaging in physical activity.

“I want you to see physical activity as an important medicine to keep your bodies, minds and spirits healthy,” she said.
Manchester High School Principal, Jasford Gabriel, also underscored the importance of physical activity.

“There is a close correlation between physical fitness and mental alertness; this means you [will] do better in your school work when you are physically fit,” he said.

Tertiary Recruitment Drive Held in Mandeville

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Hon. Marsha Smith is encouraging students to seek higher education and to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.

Ms. Smith was speaking at a Tertiary Recruitment Drive held at the Manchester High School in Mandeville, on April 19.

Some 20 tertiary institutions, the Students’ Loan Bureau, as well as the Council of Community Colleges in Jamaica, participated in the event.

“Tertiary education enables individuals to realize their fullest potential and contribute meaningfully to society. The recruitment drive is in alignment with the recommendation of the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission and is an initiative that seeks to address the issue of low enrolment across public higher education institutions,” she stated.

The recruitment drive is aimed at exposing students to the diverse programme offerings available at various higher education institutions.

Ms. Smith said the tertiary unit within the Ministry, has collaborated with higher education institutions to showcase their various available offerings, to grades 11 to 13 students.

“The tertiary unit is an integral part of the ministry and is pivotal to ensuring access to high quality tertiary education. This is done through supervision and support, financial assistance, scholarships, teacher exchange programmes and more,” the State Minister said.

Meanwhile, Transcript Officer at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, Raymond Bogle, said the aim at the drive, was to enrol students for the upcoming academic year.

“Our full-time enrolment is over 400 students, and we turn out in the 50s in the bachelor’s programme annually, so we are trying to increase enrolment,” Bogle said.

Lecturer at the Knox Community College, Bobsie Levy said the institution’s participation in the event was directed at promoting the various programmes available at the school.

“We have a host of programmes available in 10 departments including Business, Environment Studies, Liberal Studies, Engineering, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Information and Communication Technology, Nursing and many more,” she said.

For Lecturer in Language Arts and marketing and communication expert at the Shortwood Teachers’ College, Dr. Janet Williams, the purpose was to attract students to the school.

“We are hoping to get students for the 2024-25 academic year, as well as those who want to be part-time students in our bachelor’s degree programmes. We have a lot of programmes,” she said.

Some of the participating institutions included Montego Bay Community College, Trench Town Polytechnic, Brown’s Town Community College, Mico Teachers’ College, Moneague Teachers’ College, the College of Arts, Science and Education, Vocational Training Development Institute, Knox Community College, EXED Community College, Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, University of Technology and Church Teachers’ College.