Reopen schools for all
All Jamaican children need to go back to school. Now.
Open letter by UNICEF and stakeholders
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Jamaica’s children have lost an estimated 1.3 billion in-class hours over 19 months of physical school closures. The learning loss is staggering. The most vulnerable children who struggle to access remote education have been hit the hardest.
We cannot even measure the social, physical and emotional toll of school closures on our children, but we are certain the impact will be felt on their lives, those of their families and our country for many years to come.
The education of our children cannot be delayed any more. As we face the biggest education crisis of our history, we must consider the cost of our inaction. That price is too high for our children to pay. The cost will continue to affect Jamaica’s development prospects for generations. We have no more time to lose.
We must do all that we can to fully restore our children’s right to education. They are counting on us.
Together, UNICEF and stakeholders call on the government to:
Act now to reopen schools fully and safely
We call on the government to urgently ensure the safe face-to-face re-opening of Jamaica’s schools and to remove any barriers that stand in the way, including vaccination targets for schools. All our children – especially the most disadvantaged – deserve more focused attention and better learning opportunities than remote education can offer. This is critical for their development, safety and well-being. Schools can be fully and safely re-opened. This has been done elsewhere, and we can do it too.
Implement recovery plans
We call on the government to clearly articulate effective and evidence-based strategies and implementation plans to ensure that our education system delivers a comprehensive recovery response. Effective remedial learning, psychosocial interventions, targeted and relevant social safety net provisions and ongoing support for teachers to address the needs of the children should be central to these efforts.
Build resilient systems
We call on the government to put in place the policies and resources necessary to make our education system more resilient. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take this opportunity to build back better. Our education system needs to be prepared for emerging and dynamic threats and we must work across sectors to achieve resilience. Plans for risk mitigation and disaster risk management and response must be relevant, flexible and scalable.
They also need to be adequately funded. A recently concluded Public Expenditure Review conducted by UNICEF and the World Bank found that the education budget will need to increase by JMD $2.4-3.9 billion annually for 1-2 years to mitigate student dropout and reverse learning loss. The projected cost of failing to do this is JMD $828 billion.
Co-signed by the following stakeholders:
- Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ)
- Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (JAPSS)
- Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC)
- Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF)
- Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA)
- Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN)
- National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ)