For many head teachers and school boards, the education ministry’s directive that in-class students return to wearing masks is an «I-told-you-so» moment. Though not quite as obvious, the development also provides another reminder of the continued failure of the Government to engage a serious public discussion on the report of the reform of Jamaica’s education system by a commission that was chaired by the distinguished Jamaican intellectual and academic, Orlando Patterson.
In this case, the issue relates to governance, especially how the renewed mask-wearing mandate exemplifies the education ministry as a hulking, mostly inefficient and over-centralised bureaucracy, where decision-making often excludes those who they actually impact and are implemented without supporting empirical data. Although, in this case, the decision happens to be right.
The directive on masks came in a circular from the chief education officer, Kasan Troupe, to the ministry’s regional officers, to be passed on to principals – a process that largely highlights what those offices – in the absence of the increased autonomy proposed by the 2004 Rae Davis task force on education – are essentially drop boxes for the central ministry.
The reintroduction of masks in classrooms was triggered by the rising COVID-19 cases on the island, including in schools. Indeed, the health ministry says Jamaica is in the fifth wave of the disease. In the second week of May, for example, schools reported 617 suspected cases of COVID-19 among students, of which 41 per cent were confirmed.
Principals largely believe that the spike was almost inevitable, given the low vaccination rate among Jamaicans. Only 24 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19. At last count, 41 per cent of the 240,000 students recommended for vaccination had received at least one dose of a vaccine.
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LINK ORIGINAL: Jamaica Gleaner