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‘Listen Up! Children’s Voices Matter’

Parents and guardians are being encouraged to pay closer attention to children and provide an avenue where their voices can be heard.

The urging came from Government Senator Dr. Sapphire Longmore while speaking on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate on Friday (May 13).

She made the call against the backdrop that the month of May is observed as Child Month, and the theme this year is, ‘Listen Up! Children’s Voices Matter’.

“When a child says something, especially something disturbing, it is not inherent for them to come up with this, they learnt it, or they were exposed to it and so we must pay attention to it. There is a lot of stress going on in our society and … children will express it in different ways.

“If you see a child saying something, behaving in a particular way, being a little bit more clingy…they may just need your attention, so especially now at this time and going forward, listen to them, pay attention and let their voices be heard,” she said.

This is critical, she said, and will allow the adult to investigate and seek the necessary intervention to protect children from harm and ensure their well-being.

“I will not go into great details as to the significance of this at this time with what we are seeing out there in terms of our children going back to school, post COVID, and the challenges that … are being faced, not just as the children themselves but those who care for our children. ‘Listen Up, Children’s Voices Matter’ is quite significant,” Dr. Longmore stated.

Opposition Senator Gabriela Morris called on Jamaicans to use Child Month as a reminder to play a collective role in looking out for children.

“It still takes a village to ensure that our children have safe spaces to exist in. It still takes a village to ensure that our children feel heard, so I want to remind the general public that there is a 211 hotline for children who are being abused, for children who are not in school,” Senator Morris said.

She urged community members to speak up and speak out about incidents of child abuse. “Don’t just let it be a community whisper, if something is happening to a child: report, report, report. The onus is on all of us to ensure that we play our part in creating a future for our children that we can be proud of,” she said.

211 is a child abuse helpline. The 24-hour child helpline can be dialed from a cellular or landline telephone free of cost. It replaces 888-PROTECT and is operated by trained officers from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) through the National Children’s Registry.

The 211 helpline forms part of strategic efforts by the Ministry of Education and Youth to empower youth to protect themselves by reporting incidents of abuse that they may face.

Jamaica To Celebrate Africa Day May 25

Jamaica will, for the first time this year, join the African Union and countries with a large African diaspora, to celebrate Africa Day on May 25.

Senior Education Officer in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Marlon Williams, said the celebration of Africa Day will form part of the Culture in Education Programme in schools.

On that day, schools will have the opportunity to execute activities focusing on Jamaica’s African culture and heritage.

“It will provide our children and young people with in-depth knowledge of the continent as part of a national effort to erase some of the misconceptions and misinformation which are often rife among our people about the Continent of Africa,” Mr. Williams told JIS News.

The Mona Heights Primary School in Kingston has been selected as the ‘Featured School’ for the event this year. The school will showcase aspects of four African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia) being celebrated this year. Activities will include a fashion show and an exhibition showcasing their cultures and cuisines.

Other schools across the island will be required to select one of the four African countries for their focused activity.

For example, Ghana – a source of most of the Africans captured and transported to Jamaica; Nigeria – also a source of most of the Africans captured and transported to Jamaica; South Africa – Jamaica’s strong relationship with this country, including our contribution to the release of Nelson Mandela, and Ethiopia – its relationship with the Rastafari community.

Schools are asked to use the day to organise a ceremony aimed at celebrating the selected country. The focus can be on its location, capital, population, national and official language(s), political leadership, food and other cultural expressions, national flag, motto and anthem.

Other Africa Day activities can include but not be limited to Staging an African-themed fashion show, supported by appropriate musical selections and other African cultural expressions that have been retained by Jamaicans, and mounting a pictorial exhibition on the country selected.

According to Mr. Williams, the Ministry continues to place emphasis on character building among students in all that they do. As such, the schools are reminded to use the activities to also highlight and promote positive values and attitudes in students as “we continue to build their character”.

Culture Agents assigned to schools are tasked with the responsibility to lead the organisation of planned activities.

The celebration of Africa Day is a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Ministry of Education and Youth.

Ministries Sign Restorative Justice MOU

The Ministry of Education and Youth is partnering with the Ministry of Justice to use restorative justice practices in the school system.

Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two Ministries, at the Ministry of Education and Youth, in Kingston, on May 3, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said the system has been used largely by the Courts, with positive outcomes for both victims and those who commit wrongs, particularly in situations where persons are known to each other.

“This partnership will bear enormous fruits in our schools. We have a programme which has been extremely successful, and we promote it as justice that heals,” Minister Chuck told the ceremony.

Restorative Justice is a procedure that brings all the parties with a stake in a particular offence, to resolve the conflict, and deal with the aftermath of the offence. It seeks to repair the harm caused by the offence, help reintegrate the offender into the community, and aims to achieve a sense of healing for both the victim and the community.

For her part, Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, said the Ministry will continue to provide and promote best practices in conflict resolution and “enhancing community cohesion” given the recent spate of violent conflicts among students.

“Today’s MOU signifies the continuation and expansion of a long-standing working relationship with respect to preventing and reducing conflicts in educational institutions, extending to homes and communities at large,” Minister Williams said.

She added that the Ministry of Justice will lead the training across 104 schools for 3,120 trainees, including school educators/administrators, students and parents, adding that the “overarching aim” is to build capacity of restorative practices across Jamaica, with a focus on school administrators, and children and parents.

“This is to support and promote the development of trusting relationships between schools, students and parents; to support an atmosphere of open, honest and genuine dialogue among all stakeholders; to facilitate development of key stakeholders in the education sector, in providing community-building strategies and viable alternatives to detentions and exclusions,” she said.

Sitting Of CSEC And CAPE Exams Put Back

The date for the sitting of the Caribbean Advanced Education Certificate (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) has been put back until Monday, May 23, 2022.

This announcement was made by Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Dr. Wayne Wesley, during a virtual press briefing today (April 27).

The due date for Student-Based Assessments (SBAs) was also extended by two weeks by the Council.

On that note, Dr. Wesley said the local registrar should declare a specific date for local submissions.

Following the three-week extension, the results for the examinations are projected to be released by late August or early September.

“After careful deliberation, and consideration of all the pertinent issues, the Council agreed that the revised strategy for the 2022 regional examinations will provide candidates with additional time to prepare,” Dr. Wesley said.

Currently, 25,429 students are registered for CAPE exams, while 105,078 are registered to sit CSEC exams regionally.

Dr. Wesley noted that students are still allowed to defer from sitting an exam, up to a day before the test is written.

“We continue to work with our stakeholders in the best interest of our students across the region. Our collective will and consensus on matters of regional importance [is always significant]. We have obtained that consensus, and for that reason, Council would have approved the foregoing decisions,” he said.

The Council’s Hardship Policy will continue to be implemented when marking examination papers, in light of the setbacks posed to the education sector by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Ministry Committed To Promoting Healthy Lifestyles Among Students

The Ministry of Education and Youth remains committed to encouraging and promoting healthy nutrition and regular exercise among students, to minimise the incidence of obesity.

This assurance comes from Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, who notes research indicating the prevalence of obesity among individuals, particularly youngsters.

Speaking during activities marking National School Moves Day, at Ferncourt High in St. Ann on April 29, Mrs. Williams said data from a 2017 Global School Health Survey showed that 65 per cent of children, 13 to 17 years, were overweight while 26 per cent were considered obese.

She further referenced the findings of a 2016-2017 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey which, she said, indicated that one in two, or 54 per cent, of overall Jamaicans were pre-obese or obese.

Mrs. Williams said healthy lifestyle habits, such as being physically active and eating well, have proven to yield long-term dividends, adding that good nutrition is “one of the cornerstones for enhancing learning.”

She noted that, over the years, the Ministries of Education, and Health and Wellness, have partnered to develop polices and public education programmes tailored to provide more nutritious options for youngsters from the early childhood to high school levels.

The Minister said parents as well as teachers and school administrators have been engaged in the process, “in recognition of [the fact that] there must be a holistic approach in addressing this challenge [obesity].”

Mrs. Williams said while hereditary and cultural norms were among the factors rendering children more susceptible to developing obesity, changes in lifestyle habits have also been influential.

As such, she welcomed this year’s staging of the National School Moves Day Initiative.

This, the Minister said, “against the background of us coming out of the more serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and [the resulting] reduced physical activity and physical exercise programmes that children normally engage in while at school, and even in their communities.”

Mrs. Williams said the initiative, which forms part of the Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme, aims to encourage children to be physically active, and provides an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of doing so.

She added that Jamaica Moves in Schools was an early intervention programme, and among those designed to ensure that children participate in a minimum amount of physical activity daily, en route to creating overall healthier lifestyles.

“We are happy to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Association of Principals and Vice Principals of Secondary Schools, and the Jamaica Association of Primary and Infant Schools to encourage a healthier lifestyle among our [student] population,” Mrs. Williams stated.

She added that while COVID-19 had severely impacted the programme’s implementation, “we are committed to renewing the efforts to achieve the desired results, including encouraging children to get moving about, even in their own home environments.”

Every Child Should Be In School – Dr. Troupe

No child should be left behind; every child should be in school, as there are more than 767 primary schools and 200 high schools that are fully funded by the Government, says Acting Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Dr. Kasan Troupe.

She was bringing greetings on behalf of the Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, at the Child Month National Church Service, held at the Eastwood Park New Testament Church of God on May 1.

Dr. Troupe pleaded with community leaders, parents and church members to call 211 if they know of a child not going to school and encouraged persons to recommend infant schools as an alternative to basic schools, if parents cannot afford the fees. She pointed out that infant schools are operated by the Government and are fully funded. “Do not keep the children at home; early stimulation is important,” she said.

Citing the Child Month 2022 theme, ‘Listen Up! Children Voices Matter’, Dr. Troupe noted that the Ministry will host special activities during the month of May.

‘Safe Speak’ sessions will provide a forum for children to tell how they feel about safety in Jamaica and school.

According to Dr. Troupe, the information garnered will guide safety policy development. Children will also have an opportunity to contribute to what is described as a policy dialogue, where the children will look at what is being done for the ‘End the Violence’ campaign.

“They will do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of what is being done in this country. This means their voices will impact what we do and how we develop policies, programmes and activities in our schools and beyond,” Dr. Troupe said.

“This year’s Child Month theme means that we have to pause as individuals and listen. We have to give our children the opportunity to speak up, assert themselves, share their perspective. We may not agree, but we have to listen, and as we listen, we will know what their thoughts are and we can guide them,” she said. The National Child Month Committee (NCMC)-planned activities for the Month will continue on May 20, which is celebrated as National Children’s Day. On this day, members of the public are being asked to wear sunshine yellow and treat the children extra special.

The NCMC will host ‘Pickney Party Live and Direct’. During the Party, children six to 17 years of age will have the opportunity to showcase their talents through dance, poetry, songs or any other Art form.

The National Day of Prayer for the Nation’s Children is Wednesday May 25. This will be held at the Trinity Moravian Church, Montgomery Avenue in Kingston.

On Tuesday, May 3, several households will receive care packages that will be distributed by members of the NCMC.

Lead sponsors for Child Month 2022 are GraceKennedy and National Baking Company Foundation. There are also Jamaica Producers, National Health Fund, Sangster’s Book Store and the JN Group.

Minister Williams Encourages Students To Make Use Of Libraries

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, is encouraging Jamaican students to become active library users as part of their educational journey.

“Now that you’re back at school fully in the face-to-face environment, I want to encourage you to use your libraries at schools and others that exist across Jamaica,” she said.

The Minister was participating in a reading session with students from various Corporate-Area primary-level institutions, at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library on Tuesday (May 3).

The activity was in observance of Read Across Jamaica Day.

Mrs. Williams said that while some persons may view a library as being “old-fashioned”, the facilities in Jamaica are now more modernised with computers and other technology and new programmes, which will be “exciting to children”.

The Minister, who read from the book ‘Little Lion Goes for Gold’ by Kellie Magnus, encouraged active participation by the students, who answered questions and made comments.

Each student was given a chance to sign up to become a member of the library, and the Minister encouraged the youngsters to tell their parents about the facility and how they can also benefit from membership.

Mrs. Williams announced that the Ministry will be embarking on a ‘Fathers Read Too’ campaign beginning Father’s Day June 19, where Jamaican fathers will be encouraged to read to their children for half an hour every day.

“We want all Jamaicans to really get into the habit of reading,” the Minister said.

Director General at the Jamaica Library Service (JLS), Maureen Thompson, noted that the entity is ensuring that its 111 service points across the island have content that supports the prescribed texts from students’ reading lists.

“We want to ensure that you have access to information to assist you in your academic performance at school,” she said.

She noted that members of the public who visit the libraries have the option of bringing their own devices and accessing Wi-Fi or using the designated computers free of charge.

Meanwhile, Ms. Thompson said that entries are being accepted for the National Reading Competition, which is being staged under the theme ‘Reigniting a Nation to Read,’ which is in keeping with the ‘Jamaica 60’ theme, ‘Reigniting a Nation for Greatness’.

Read Across Jamaica Day is aimed at making reading a regular part of children’s lives.

The annual activity forms part of ‘Education Week’ activities, which was first observed by the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) in 2005.

Teachers Encouraged To Embrace Technology

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, is encouraging teachers to further integrate the use of technology in the teaching and learning process in the island’s schools.

Mrs. Williams was addressing the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Annual Education Conference’s opening session, which was held at the Ocean Coral Spring Hotel in Trelawny on Tuesday (April 19).

“I know that technology will help us in education, I don’t see many teachers using their laptops that the JTA fought so hard for you to get,” she said.

Mrs. Williams further informed that close to seven thousand teachers at the primary-school level had redeemed their e-vouchers, which went towards the purchase of laptops to aid in online classes.

The e-vouchers are issued under the ‘Laptop for Teachers’ programme launched in December of last year, developed by e- Learning Jamaica Limited (e-Ljam). The programme targets public school educators.

“I would love to see many, many more of our teachers integrate technology in the learning process; it can help you in helping our students,” Mrs. Williams underscored.

The Minister noted, however, that teachers had been innovative with reaching students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our teachers… [were] very innovative as we all lived through the pandemic. You had to pivot very quickly to learn the virtual space, to create classrooms, to keep [most] of our children engaged with their education. That was innovation; you did something that you had never done before,” Mrs. Williams outlined.

Minister Williams noted that the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity to reset and redefine what normal is.

“For the education sector this is a chance… [for] a close look at aspects of the education system that we have taken for granted,” she stated.

The education minister also highlighted that innovation in education encourages students to research, explore and use all the tools to uncover something new.

The three-day conference, which concludes on April 21, is being held under the theme, ‘Sustainable Innovations in Education: Retool. Renew. Reset’.

ISSA Foundation Donates Wipes

Acting Director of Donor and Partnership Management, National Education Trust, Shirley Moncrieffe (left), and National Mathematics Coordinator in the Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY), Dr. Tameika Benjamin, observe as student from the Oracabessa Primary School in St. Mary, Shedean Davis, opens a pack of FDA-approved antiseptic wipes. Her school and others across the island will benefit from a donation of one million packs from the ISSA Trust Foundation as part of the MOEY’s efforts to support the ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts. Looking on (from second right) are Chairman, ISSA Trust Foundation, Paul Issa and Oracabessa Primary Guidance Counsellor, Alex Carruthers. The handover took place at the Ministry, in Kingston, today (April 19).

Criteria For Appointment Of Principals To Be Revised

The criteria for the appointment of principals are to be revised following Cabinet’s approval for these changes to be made.

This will be facilitated through the amendment of section 43 (1) of the Education Act, 1965 and sections of the Education Regulations, 1980, which relate to the criteria for the appointment of principals.

Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), with responsibility for Information, Hon. Robert Morgan, made the announcement during a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday (April 6).

The proposed amendments are to ensure that principals possess the requisite educational qualifications and training, in line with current international standards.

These changes are geared towards improving the quality of leadership and the general management of educational institutions.

In the meantime, Cabinet also gave approval for the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) to operate under the Ministry of Education and Youth.

However, exceptions were provided where the NCTVET would transfer its quality assurance function, that is, its ability to approve and accredit institutions that offer technical and vocational training, and its registers to the University Council of Jamaica.

Additionally, the Overseas Examinations Commission will now have the statutory responsibility of administering tests that have been developed by NCTVET. To facilitate these changes, the requisite amendments will be made to the relevant Acts of Parliament.