Editorial | Right move on back-to-school vaccination

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Entornointeligente.com / It is not a position at which we have arrived lightly, but The Gleaner endorses the Government’s decision to, during the new school year, limit in-class teaching of students above age 12 to those who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Fayval Williams, the education minister, must articulate the policy with clarity and end the waffle about “giving priority” to vaccinated children.

Our support, though, comes with two provisos. First, and crucially, the Government is obligated to make the Pfizer vaccine, the one endorsed for people as young as 12, easily accessible to targeted students, no matter where they live in Jamaica. Second, the Government must make reasonable efforts, in good faith, to deliver education in alternative formats to those students who may not be inoculated.

This newspaper is acutely aware of the value of education to Jamaica’s social and economic development, of the responsibility of the Government to facilitate these national aspirations, and of the country’s shortcomings on these fronts. Indeed, only yesterday in these columns, we highlighted the oft-repeated observation that up to 70 per cent of Jamaican workers have no certification, or specific training, for the jobs that they do. Part of the reason for this is the weak foundation upon which the education system is built, notwithstanding the constitutional entitlement of Jamaican children “to publicly funded tuition in a public educational institution at the pre-primary and primary levels”.

ILL-PREPARED Annually, over a third of the students who enter high school (children at the lower band of the group targeted for vaccinations) are ill-prepared for secondary education. This year, the situation is worse. Last month, the education ministry reported an overall pass rate of 52 per cent for grade-six students assessed under the Primary Exit Profile tests. That is down eight percentage points from the previous year, when COVID-19 began its disruption of the education system. Ten and a half per cent of the students will need intense help in maths, and over 16 per cent in language arts to lift them to secondary standards. Twenty-two per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, will require additional, if less intense, support.

Education’s problems were exacerbated by the absence of face-to-face teaching and the clear failure of the experiment at delivering education online. This situation was worsened by the fact that over 120,000 students, or 29 per cent of the total enrolment in primary and secondary schools, went missing during the school year.

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LINK ORIGINAL: Jamaica Gleaner

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