Department of Education continues COVID surveillance strategy – Williams | News
DESPITE RECENT calls for the government to suspend face-to-face classes due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, in particular the Omicron variant having been confirmed in Jamaica, Education Minister Fayval Williams , said his ministry would continue with its current strategy of monitoring schools. ‘ adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
Williams was talking to the gleaner Thursday, following the official handover ceremony of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Salt Spring Safe Passage project, at Salt Spring Elementary School in St James.
“Our responsibility is to bring our children back into the face-to-face environment in the safest way possible, to stay up to date with what is happening in our schools, and we receive weekly reports which give us an idea of what that is happening. Although we have seen reports from some of our schools that some teachers test positive or have been exposed to people with COVID, or some students who show symptoms of runny noses, etc., in these cases teachers and the students stayed home,” Williams said resolutely.
“We are monitoring the situation and sharing this data with the Department of Health and Wellness. So far in our schools, based on the reports and spot checks we do, we are implementing face-to-face learning in the safest way possible,” added Williams.
On Tuesday, the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) recommended the government suspend face-to-face classes for some time. Such a move would seem particularly cautious with the revelation that Omicron’s highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed to be in Jamaica.
However, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) countered this recommendation, saying the learning loss experienced by students during the pandemic is too great.
Regarding the welcome of the Jamaican student population to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Williams noted that the number of high school students who have taken the vaccine has increased since December.
“In our high schools, we continue to see the percentage of vaccinated students increase. When we finished December last year, it was 31%. 100 of students; but, the last time I looked was about a week ago, we were at about 37%. So we’re seeing kids still taking the vaccines,” Williams said.
The Minister for Education also said that consultations are currently underway to determine whether to postpone exams such as the primary exit profile, and that an announcement will be made to this effect, once a decision will have been agreed with the stakeholders.
Last May, the United Nations Children’s Fund lambasted the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) for its decision to continue the June 2021 session of its examination period. CXC was then pressured by teacher lobby groups to hold an easier exam, as student preparation would have been badly affected by the pandemic.