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30,000 Additional Students, Parents and Educators to Receive Restorative Justice Training

Approximately 30,000 additional students, parents, and educators from 500 public schools are to be trained in restorative justice practices this fiscal year.

Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, made the disclosure during her contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 17).

In May 2022, the Ministries of Education, and Justice signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate restorative justice training for parents, educators, and students of 207 public, primary and secondary schools.

Mrs. Williams informed that at the end of March 2023, more than 5,000 stakeholders were trained.

“Restorative justice practices training is [intended] to equip stakeholders in the educational system with conflict-management skills as a strategy to reduce the incidence of violence in schools,” she stated.

On another matter, Mrs. Williams said some 58 school leaders have been trained under the Leadership for Safer Schools (LSS) initiative, funded by the European Union (EU) Spotlight Initiative.

“This course is designed to support school leaders in creating safe environments that will reduce school-related violence and gender-based violence,” she indicated.

Mrs. Williams added that the course was designed on the premise that interventions to reduce gender-based violence must be grounded in behaviour change, brought about by the development of non-threatening school environments where the rights of children are respected and promoted.

School-Feeding Programme Gets $9 Billion for 2023/24

The Government has provided almost $9 billion towards the school-feeding programme for this 2023/24 fiscal year, representing an increase of $2 billion over the prior year.

“Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) will continue to provide the breakfast/snack component of the school-feeding programme,” Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, said during her contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 17.

Mrs. Williams said for this year, the aim is to feed 180,171 students, including those attending Early Childhood Commission institutions and Brain Builders centres; Infants up to grade 3 at the primary level; primary and junior high schools up to grade 9; secondary schools; and wards of the State.

She further informed that the number of feeding days for the academic year will remain at 190 days, which is the number of school days in the academic year.

“The funding is disbursed to the schools to provide cooked lunches for students on the basis that once meals are prepared in large quantities, the schools will reap the benefits of economy of scale,” Mrs. Williams said.

There has also been an increase in the rates given to the schools at all levels.

21 Per Cent Increase in Sixth-Form Pathways Enrolment

A total of 24,245 students are enrolled in the Ministry of Education and Youth’s Sixth-Form Pathways Programme (SFPP) for the 2022/23 academic year.

The number represents a 21 per cent increase in enrolment over last year’s figure of 19,122.

“We will continue to monitor and look for new ways to engage students, especially those in the tertiary space who have demonstrated the aptitude for managing a more flexible arrangement where they can continue their education while being a part of the workforce on a part-time basis,” Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, said.

She was making her contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 17.

Minister Williams said that the programme is being offered in 167 high schools and 40 tertiary/post-secondary centres for the 2022/2023 academic year.

“These students benefit from continued educational opportunities under Pathways one through three,” she noted.

Additionally, all students have the opportunity to pursue Mathematics and English in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) or City & Guilds exams if they were not initially successful at grade 11.

Also, each student enrolled in the SFPP is further provided with the opportunity to complete training and certification in customer service.

Meanwhile, as at September 2023, high-school cadets, upon reaching grade 12, will have access to the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) Cadetting (Infantry) Level 3 course.

After being piloted in 2019, the Sixth-Form Pathways or the seven-year high-school programme was launched in September 2020, to allow students to graduate from secondary school with one or more of the following – an occupational associate degree, certificate or a diploma (within an occupational discipline), or an accredited Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ) or University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) Associate Degree.

Students can also graduate with Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects (diploma or certificate) or a CAPE Associate Degree, National Vocational Qualification – Jamaica (NVQJ) and/or Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) at levels two or three.

Education Ministry Reports Success with ‘Yard to Yard, Find the Child’ Initiative

The Ministry of Education and Youth has reaped success with its ‘Yard to Yard, Find the Child’ initiative, with Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, informing that schools have almost returned or are fully back to pre-COVID-19 levels of student attendance.

The initiative was rolled out in 2022 as a national call to action to identify, locate and re-engage students, given the pandemic’s impact on the education system.

Mrs. Williams provided the update during today’s (May 16) edition of Nationwide 90’s ‘Ask the Minister’ programme.

The Minister told Host, Nora Gay Banton, that while there is data indicating the programme’s success, “what we’re grappling with now is the high level of absenteeism”.

She said this phenomenon could lead to a loss of learning time for students because, “if you’re absent from school, even one or two days, you’re going to be missing what you should be getting”.

Consequently, Mrs. Williams appealed to parents to “make the sacrifice” in ensuring that their children are in class every day of the school week.

“I want to get the word out that Friday is a school day. It is not a day for you to be taking the children to market or to clean the house or to do all of that. If you take them away from school every Friday for the school year, they will have lost a significant percentage of school time,” the Minister stated.

Jamaica and British Council Sign Five-Year Partnership on STEAM Education

Jamaica is to benefit from a five-year partnership with the British Council aimed at enhancing cooperation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which will guide the arrangement, was signed during a press conference following the Jamaica-United Kingdom (UK) strategic dialogue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade’s downtown Kingston offices on May 19.

The signatories were Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Maureen Dwyer; Executive Director, National Education Trust (NET), Latoya Harris Ghartey; and Country Director, Jamaica and the Caribbean Islands, British Council, Damion Campbell.

The MOU signing was witnessed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, UK, the Rt. Hon. James Cleverly.

In an interview with JIS News, Ms. Dwyer said the signing represents an expansion of the relationship with the British Council as it relates to STEAM and Science Technology Education and Mathematics (STEM) education.

“Just last year, a study was conducted in the Jamaican education sector to see how well prepared we are for teaching methodologies related to STEM as well as the teaching of STEM itself. The British Council sponsored that research and when the results were collated, they presented it to us,” she said.

She noted further that a team of local educators conducted a successful tour of the British education system and “we learned a lot [which will inform] our thrust now to build seven STEM schools in Jamaica”.

“What they have done now with the signing …is to expand the relationship to other areas to see how well they can continue to support us both in training and in our build-out of the infrastructure. So, we are very pleased for this partnership and we are looking forward to what it brings,” Ms. Dwyer added.

Mr. Campbell, for his part, noted that the collaboration will create more educational opportunities for young people.

“For the Council, it means we are able to connect more young people in the UK with Jamaica to share their experiences, expertise, open up their understanding to a more global world but more through the lens of what STEAM education is,” he told JIS News.

Jamaica Celebrates Africa Day May 25

This year, for the second time, Africa Day will be celebrated in Jamaica on May 25.

Schools are expected to plan activities with a focus on Jamaica’s African culture, under the theme ‘Celebrating Africa: Sankofa, Return to the Root’. Senior Education Officer in the Core Curriculum Unit of the Ministry of Education and Youth and Chair of the Africa Day Planning Committee, Marlon Williams, told JIS News that, last year, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport reached out to the Education Ministry expressing the desire to have this day be recognised annually across the nation, especially in the schools.

“Celebrating Africa Day is of great importance, as it affords our students, the rest of Jamaica and the world with in-depth knowledge of Africa and provides clarity where there is misinformation,” Mr. Williams said.

Schools are asked to use an appropriate time of the day to stage a ceremony aimed at celebrating the selected country or countries and which should include the wearing of African-themed dress to school.

The focus can be on the selected country’s location, capital, population, national and official language(s), political leadership, food and other cultural expressions, national flag, motto and anthem.

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

Schools may select at least one of the following – Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia to be the country of focus. Mr. Williams also said that while all schools will be celebrating the day, Buff Bay Primary School in Portland has been selected as the “Featured School” for 2023. The school will be showcasing aspects of the four countries being celebrated this year.

“They are lining up a very interesting and entertaining package for the day, which will include participation from stakeholders, such as the Maroons,” he said. “The Ministry of Education and Youth continues to place emphasis on character building among our students in all that they do. As such, the schools are being reminded to use the activities to also highlight and promote positive values and attitudes in our students as we continue to build their character,” Mr. Williams pointed out.

Teachers Urged to Make Greater Use of Technology in the Classroom

Teachers are being implored to make greater use of technology in the teaching and learning process, even as normality has returned to the education sector, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making the call, Minister of Education and Youth, Hon Fayval Williams, reiterated that technology-based education must become a permanent fixture in schools.

She was addressing the Teachers’ Colleges of Jamaica Biennial Research Conference 2023, held at the Holiday Inn Resort, Montego Bay, St James, on Wednesday (April 19).

“Government made a lot of investment in devices for our students, and we were able to get the sector through COVID. Yes, there has been learning loss, which we are making up, but the disappointing news is that now that we are post-COVID-19, we are not seeing the continuation of technology in our classrooms,” Mrs. Williams pointed out.

She stressed that the Government continues to make investments to speed up the pace at which schools employ information and communications technology (ICT) and urged teachers to capitalise on that investment.

“We have ensured… that all our primary-school teachers have laptops. Things can be downloaded and brought to the classroom. As I stand here today, we are ensuring that all of our secondary-school teachers have laptops; and we are ensuring that ICT labs in our secondary schools are upgraded,” the Minister said.

“We want to be encouraged, we want to know that the investment is not going to gather dust, that our teachers will be using [ICT in our classrooms to enrich the teaching and learning experience,” she added.

The Minister noted that half the nation’s schools have now been equipped with broadband connectivity, with plans to have Wi-Fi across all “primary, secondary, tertiary and early-childhood institutions, so that it is available in classrooms in our schools”.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Williams underscored that special development workshops and research conferences serve as critical avenues to help teachers examine new developments in pedagogy, “while at the same time improving their classroom skills”.

“As key participants and stakeholders in education, meaningful transformation can only happen if we involve your perspectives and engagement. Aligned to this must be continued professional development that keeps teachers apace with innovation and technological development in the field,” she said.

The three-day biennial research conference, which culminates on April 21, is being held under the theme ‘Preparing Teachers for The Next Education Task Force: Implications for National Development’.

The conference will provide a platform for faculty, students, local and regional and international partners to share their theoretical knowledge, research findings and pedagogical approaches with the academic community.