The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a plethora of challenges for education systems around the world as many governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Technology has emerged as one of the most critical tools to support remote learning when learners need to remain outside of classrooms, especially in the developing world. Ensuring learning continuity during the time of school closures became a priority for governments the world over, many of which turned to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), requiring teachers to move to online delivery of lesson.
In Jamaica, education policy makers are working to ensure that classes continue, and that the most vulnerable are not left behind. The Jamaican government will be spending $567. 18 million to carry out infrastructural projects within schools for the 2020/21 period. The Government has provided all public education institutions with additional sums of between $500,000 and $1 million towards intensified preparations for the upcoming academic year, in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Schools are required to develop plans for the use and distribution of basic equipment and materials needed for sanitisation purposes, such as temperature check devices, hand-washing solutions/stations, masks, alcohol, sanitisers, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Staff and students will receive training on the importance of social/physical distancing and other precautionary/hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Jamaican Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Karl Samuda recently announced that primary schools across the island will be given a total of $50m to procure tablets for needy students. The tablets will be provided to students who are in need but are not beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH). Students at the secondary level, who are not on PATH will also be supported. This injection of funds will allow additional vulnerable students at the primary level to have access to tablets. Principals at the secondary level have also been asked to assess the need and tablets and laptops will also be provided for these students.
According to Samuda, “Given the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the provision of these additional tablets will ensure that more of our vulnerable students have the tools they need to fully participate in the blended learning approach that we have been forced to adopt to education”.
The Jamaican Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has also earmarked some $50 million to support students who are not on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), to cushion the challenges associated with purchasing back-to-school supplies.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is moving to establish a National Learning Management System (LMS) that will better allow schools to create, deliver and manage lessons and other training materials.
School leaders will be able to use it to set and track assignments, track performance, post video clips, pictures and animations. The Ministry’s officers will also be able to use the system to monitor school activities and to obtain data to inform interventions. Under the LMS, electronic system will be procured and implemented in partnership with existing providers.
Jamaica has also undertaken many initiatives to safeguard the welfare of teachers who have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak across the island. A financial aid for private school teachers was approved under the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme offered by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service. This will see private-school teachers receiving a one-off payment of $40,000 each, while support staff will receive $10,000 each. Approximately 20,000 teachers have been trained in virtual pedagogy in preparation for the new academic year.
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