New school year, same issues

photo of Fayval Williams
Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams engaging engaging pupils in the classroom (Photo credit: Fayval Willams Twitter)

As Jamaica heals from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the new 2022/23 academic year already presents challenges for some members of the school community. According to a science educator at the Central High School in central Clarendon, Samantha Francis, within the first week of school, teachers were confronted with misbehaving students. “A lot of disciplinary challenges, students are very indiscipline,” said Francis.

Acting vice-principal at the York Town Primary School in the parish, Susan Callinder-Bennett, bemoans the same issue along with other student related problems. “One of the greatest challenges teachers are facing now at the beginning of the school year is indiscipline, students are not settled and many of them forget the basics that were taught in the previous grades, so this causes them to be undisciplined. However, over time, once a teacher sets the tone for the class along with programmes and strategies in place, this area will definitely be improved,” she said.

Also, the student turnout for this institution has improved as compared to when face-to-face classes were first reintroduced. But some returning students have missed the first week of school. “This could be due to relocation or parents trying to get supplies and making the necessary arrangements for their children, which is normal because some students begin school in the second week. Students are, however, happy to be out and enthusiastic about the new school year,” said Callinder-Bennet.

Meanwhile financial burdens hamper parents and teachers alike. “When I check the prices of everything compared to two years ago, the prices were doubled but I still tried to get what I could,” said Marcha Gallimore, parent of a high school student. And, for students, “socio-economic challenges are rife, the majority of our students are from the lower socio-economic end of the social strata [and so] technological tools that are needed for teaching and learning are in short supply,” added Francis.

Rajaun Bailey, a fifth form student at the Vere Technical High School in Hayes, Clarendon, and schoolmates who live relatively far from the institution, are affected by taxi, and traffic woes. “Morning time at May Pen, sometime the taxi full in di stand, nuh taxi not there so wi affi wait long till all 7:50, when mi leave out like 7:30, by mi fi reach a school its 8:30 because nuh taxi nuh deh a May Pen and a lot of traffic on the road.” he said.

Meanwhile, a school chef, Gloria Gordon (not her real name) said that there is a reduction in the selling of lunches compared to the previous term, some children are sent to school without money or choose to consume cheaper options.

Nevertheless, there is hope for “a very productive year where teachers, parents, students, administrators, and other stakeholders will work together to ensure that every child learns, thus, improving literacy and numeracy,” said Callinder-Bennett.

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