Now more than ever, students are desperate to be heard

Students who experienced learning in COVID-19 could be who the Education Transformation Commission needs to help plan for the future

Keneisha Henry
Keneisha Henry National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC)
Keneisha Henry
06 October 2020

As what I would call the ‘guinea pigs’ of an education system transformed by COVID-19, it stands to reason that the National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC) can contribute a lot to the new Education Transformation Commission!

As the only generation to have been on the receiving end of distance learning, I believe that this experience makes us more – or at least equally qualified – as Commission members to contribute to the transformation of the education system.

Administrators and officials at the top of the ‘educational system pyramid’, give instructions to the lower end of the pyramid, who are the teachers and the students, and unless those who are most affected are involved in, then the job of transformation will be that much harder. Lack of inclusion of the voices from the lower end of that pyramid might result in the transformed system being ineffective.

Contributing to the future of education

I was surprised when the Commission announced that there were no youth members. We are a country that has emphasised the importance of youth’s voice, even going as far as stating in the Education Regulation Act that, “Every public educational institution shall have a student council…” in order to maximise student representation in school/educational matters that affects them. Therefore seeing the Commission exclude the students’ voices was very alarming. Representing Jamaica’s 300,000 high school students is a role NSSC members take very seriously.

More than ever before students are desperate to be heard. I have never seen so many persons breakdown with mental health problems. Even I went from being a productive young woman to being a hot mess – unproductive, lazy, demotivated and completely stagnant – and I was there for a good while.

That was because of the uncertainty of tomorrow, worrying if you’re going to catch COVID-19, if the household finances are in jeopardy, or whether you can adequately access your education and even the feeling of loneliness. I am grateful that I have a circle of friends who were supportive and continuously motivated me in this pandemic.

Mental health impacts to be considered

I do believe that our generation is much more aware of the importance of mental health and I attribute that to social media. It is one of the methods that can be used to improve the conversation around mental health. This is because it is a medium that persons of all ages can utilise to become sensitised of the materials and methods that can be used to improve their overall health.

As students, we came together during what has been a really tough period and reached out to others, especially those who are having a rough time at home and checked up on them, especially around exam time. Now is a great time for the entire education system to embrace its students and rebuild together.

An immediate past member of the National Secondary Students’ Council and graduate of The Queen’s School, Keneisha now studies pure and applied biochemistry at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. This is part three in a series of blogs by NSSC members sharing their experiences of COVID-19.

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