05 May 2023

Spreading joy in schools

As students enter their classroom at Hague Primary and Infant School in Trelawny, they take their seats and begin a deep breathing exercise. “My children takes a lot of tests and quizzes, and this can be frustrating,” says Rushel Smith-Haslam, Enrichment Coordinator at the school. Smith-Haslam. “They used to come to my class frustrated, because…, ‘Miss, this really helps me.’, Initially developed by UNICEF to support teachers in addressing the psychosocial needs of their students following a natural disaster, the programme has been reframed to focus on building the socio-emotional resilience of students as they adjust to full-time, in-person instruction following almost two years of closure. “The COVID-19 pandemic was a…, Helping recover from lockdowns, “It has been a challenge to get students back into the routine,” she says. “They have returned to school not being so confident, not knowing how to express themselves correctly. They were home for months, and now, suddenly, they are back in a space where they have to share and interact positively.” Smith-Haslam’s observations mirror UNICEF’s…, Infuse into existing lessons, “The training facilitator stressed that these strategies are meant to be infused into existing lessons,” Smith-Haslam explains. “They are not a separate curriculum.” The programme’s impact has been particularly significant for two of her students. “Recently, we were reading a story that was focused on the sound that the letter H makes,”  says…, Make students feel included, meaningfully, It is this approach that is the emphasis of the Return to Happiness programme. “It is always important to include the student’s voice in learning outcomes as it lifts the entire educational experience,” explains Rebecca Tortello, UNICEF Education Specialist. “As we work to build back better, overall emotional wellness is rightfully being…, What is UNICEF doing?, UNICEF Jamaica is working with education partners to not only bring attention to the need for improved mental health support and care for children and adolescents, but to provide usable and useful strategies to do so. These include support for the development of courses like Return to Happiness, the roll out of the student-centred, emotionally…
02 November 2022

Prioritising good mental health among adolescents and their caregivers

[SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH VIDEO] How many of us remember our teen years – a time of excitement for sure. Hopefully it brings good memories of friendships made, great adventures and the energy of being youthful and hopeful. However, we may also recall the challenges of growing up - increasing responsibilities, school stress and conflicts with friends…, Creating a safe space for adolescents is key, In addition to the session with parents, facilitators engaged adolescents and were able to help them work through some of the stress they face in relating to their parents and family members. Facilitator, Rory Roberts, Manager of the adolescent-friendly Teen Hub in the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre noted that: “The main issue adolescents go…, Focus on what’s happening with their mental health, Anna-Kay Magnus Watson, Senior Education Officer, Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) unit at the Ministry of Education and Youth spoke to the need for a stronger focus on adolescent mental health: “Some of the challenges that we see with adolescents in relation to mental health, especially in light of what has been happening with COVID-19,…, Adolescent needs can be complex, Norda Spencer Dekid, Regional Nursing Supervisor at the North Eastern Regional Health Authority (NERHA) also noted that health care workers have a critical role to play in providing safe spaces: “There are certain good standard practices that are normally done in going about adolescent services. The needs of adolescents are multifactorial and…, What’s UNICEF doing?, A total of 25 healthcare and education professionals participated in a workshop where they learned to use the Helping Adolescents Thrive intervention tools, which are aimed at ensuring more support for adolescents and their mental health. The methodology also prioritizes support to parents so that they are able to manage their own mental well-…
19 October 2022

Albert Town High and SWPBIS still making a positive impact on the school culture

As schools reopened for full face-to-face learning in September, three school leaders at the Albert Town High School in Trelawny shared their experience with a UNICEF-supported Ministry of Education and Youth initiative that has improved student behaviour and school culture overall. The School-Wide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (…, What was your lightbulb moment and what are the key takeaways from the training?, Janice Skeen Miller, Vice-Principal: What that (SWPBIS) training did for us, as a school, was that it helped us to become more aware of how to use the positives to change negative behaviour. The school is now looking at what students are doing that is right and using that to help them to realise when they go wrong. We had our core values displayed…, What did you put in place to implement SWPBIS?, Denise Hughes, Guidance Counsellor: We got a team in place and got persons to buy into the programme. We got all persons on board – teachers, staff members, parents, community personnel – so we could get the programme rolling and created a positive environment because it was a bit negative before. We got students to participate and to feel good…, Thumbs Up Cards and vouchers, Denise Hughes: When a student turns up with an item that was found they will receive a Thumbs Up Card. Five Thumbs Up Cards qualify them for a lunch voucher. We highlight these behaviours in devotion that this person feels confident, and it will impact their self-esteem … and the students are recognized in devotion., How hard was it to get the buy-in?, Denise Hughes: It wasn’t very hard at all. Olando Sinclair: The team not only included teachers. There were parents on the team and the business community. We involved a wide cross-section of the community and of course the students. And with all these persons representing the various stakeholders, the buy-in was pretty good., What was it like before?, Olando Sinclair: They (students) were more aggressive towards each other and authority. We had the rules but when we tried to enforce (them) there was aggression and high levels of indiscipline regarding their uniform, damage to school furniture, a lot of fights and graffiti on the walls. There was no respect for the environment and to authority.…, How are you restarting the initiative after the COVID-19 closure?, Olando Sinclair: We have to be adaptable with the programme. What mattered in 2013 and 2014 are not as relevant now as then. That level of aggression is not there but we are seeing some other things creeping up now. One thing we know is that we have some issues relating to the value that is placed on education. There is the get-rich-quick culture…, How is the school combatting this culture?, Olando Sinclair: We are in the process of trying to understand (it). The children … we have to involve them. They have a richer understanding as to what is happening. They have the peer influence. Getting the children involved in it … that would help us to put an effective plan in place and that takes some work and will help us with adaptability.…, How did capacity building sessions help staff and prepare for reopening?, Olando Sinclair: At the school level we did several capacity building sessions where we focused on the psychosocial wellbeing of teachers and to include students and parents as well. We also did some sessions on online pedagogy to ensure that teachers are coping with online and prepare us to return to the face-to-face. Because both teachers and…, What were your school’s CSEC passes like this year?, Janice Skeen-Miller: The CSEC passes this year were fairly good. We have just one subject that we were concerned about: Mathematics was our weak point, so we are working on it., Share one success story?, Janice Skeen-Miller: I’ll share with you about one young lady who continues to be a beacon wherever she goes. She came out of a toxic environment but at school we were able to mold her into a role model: she served as a prefect, then head girl and SWPBIS ambassador., Anything else?, Janice Skeen-Miller: One thing that stands out for us, I don’t walk and see graffiti anywhere. Prior to this, as soon as you paint, they would mark up the walls. We are not seeing that happen anymore., What’s UNICEF doing?, Schools like Albert Town High are leading the way as we create mechanisms to share experiences on institutional approaches that can prevent, reduce, mitigate and respond to violence. All children deserve to feel safe at school and the SWPBIS framework gives school teams guidelines to do just that within each of their own unique contexts. UNICEF…
29 August 2022

How front-of-package warning labels can protect our health

[SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH VIDEO] Have you heard about front-of-package warning labels (FOPWL) for foods high in sugar, salt and fats? These are foods that can cause non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are responsible for 78 per cent of deaths in Jamaica. Sadly, 36 per cent of Jamaican children between 13 and 15 are overweight or obese, estimates…, Best-performing way to help Jamaican consumers, That’s why UNICEF and other partners continue to support The Heart Foundation of Jamaica in lobbying to ensure that octagonal front-of-package warning labels are introduced . According to a 2021 study conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the University of Technology (UTech) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), these…, Why do you think we need FOPWL in Jamaica?, Rosanna: We need front-of-package warning labels in Jamaica as a measure to help reduce the prevalence of NCDs as well as obesity, and especially as it regards to safeguarding our children’s health. So at least we can do it for them, to protect the future of Jamaica. Essentially, as consumers, we need an easier way to identify foods that might…, What do you think is needed to move Jamaica forward? , Rosanna: Moving forward, I think that we need a more comprehensive approach. We definitely need to identify more champions going forward. We need like a multifaceted approach to get more persons on board and amplify our messages and our cause and to say, “Hey, we are not doing this just for ourselves, but for the health of our nation!” Shannique:…, Your message for Jamaican youth?, Rosanna: I implore all Jamaican youth to support our advocacy initiatives for the FOPWL. If you’re interested, get on board. Reach out to UNICEF Jamaica, Heart Foundation of Jamaica, Healthy Caribbean Coalition or JYAN. Any representative from any of these organizations would be more than willing to hear your concerns and what you are passionate…, What's UNICEF doing?, UNICEF Jamaica supports The Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s  “Protect Our Children’s Health” mass media campaign and other activities to raise awareness about the health harms of foods high in salt, fat and sugar and the importance of implementing octagonal warning labels to create a food policy environment that supports healthy nutrition and…
22 August 2022

My old primary school gets five stars for healthiness!

[SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH VIDEO] As a former student of Mona Heights Primary School, and now UNICEF’s Nutrition Consultant, from the moment I stepped back onto the playground, I was overjoyed to see the great work being done to provide a school environment that demonstrates positive healthy nutrition and physical activity. From growing their own food…, Children modelling healthy living habits , Modelling healthy habits has become a part of the children’s behaviour. This shift has also resulted in a healthy school culture.  I saw happy, healthy students now driving the activities who were excited to be involved, enthused to line up to buy fruits as snacks or for smoothies, skilled in growing their own foods and who understood why this was…, Commitment from school leadership   , Replicating what Mona Heights is doing at other schools will first take commitment among school leadership and staff to invest in school nutrition and health as a critical step to improving the well-being and learning of our children. We all know that schools must balance many responsibilities daily. Therefore, they will want to carefully consider…, Fighting obesity; recovering post-pandemic , This represents serious threats to their long and short-term health, wellness and development – increasing their risk of NCDs like high blood pressure and type II diabetes; mental health impacts such as depression, social isolation, low self-esteem, and poor educational attainment; and causing significant emotional and financial cost to families.…, What’s UNICEF doing? , Health and nutrition are a foundation for education. UNICEF’s Nutrition Programme aims to protect the right of infants, children and young people to safe, nutritious food and recognizes that healthy, well-nourished children and adolescents learn better.  Jamaica urgently needs a National School Nutrition Policy to combat the rise of NCDs and…
04 May 2022

Papine High rises up against gender-based violence

“Ever since I’ve left primary school I’ve been trying to work on my anger. I’m still working on it.”, – Adriel Fraser, aged 14, Adriel is a student of Papine High School in St Andrew, which is surrounded by several community experiencing high rates of violent crime. Recently a 15-year-old student on his way to the school was murdered for his cell phone. However, a just concluded intervention at Papine High focusing on addressing the roots of gender-based violence has given…, Participants show changed attitudes, Implemented by the non-government organization RISE Life Management Services and supported by UNICEF under the global European Union-United Nations  Spotlight Initiative  to address gender-based family violence, the one-year programme which ended in January has delivered positive results despite being restricted to online delivery due to COVID-19…, Empowering males and females, “I believe children live what they learn and I believe everything goes back to the homes, the single parent, the no-dad issue, the single mom who cannot make ends meet and the mom becomes frustrated and takes it out on the child and then the child in turn becomes a product of his environment…..but if we start a place where each one help one then…, Opening up new conversations, Referencing the positive impact on teacher and parents, Barnes goes on to explain, “This programme is special because it brings across new information and provides a certain reinforcement. Teachers have more tools and understand the problems with using coercive methodology.” For parents, “Certain old methods they have had to throw out the window,…, Changing parenting approaches, “We have started to have open discussions about things like about sexual abuse and you know, sometimes GBV. I talk to my daughter about adults approaching her and how she should react. These sessions made me want to understand more, and even when they throw out the question and nobody answer, I had to say something.” Importantly, all the…, What is UNICEF doing?, While the RISE against Gender-based Violence School Based Intervention has come to an end under Phase I of Spotlight, schools are encouraged to develop their own interventions to prevent GBV. This and other Spotlight Initiative activities in schools are strongly linked with the UNICEF-Ministry of Education and Youth School-wide Positive Behaviour…
24 February 2022

How to make each taxpayer dollar count more for children

For anybody reading this who is a Jamaican taxpayer, your main concern might be how public funds are spent, and perhaps like UNICEF, you might also care about how they can best achieve positive results for children? In which case you might be happy to hear about something called Results-Based Budgeting (RBB), where ministries allocate resources on…, Training for champion healthcare, Howard: At the MOHW we take a whole life cycle approach and achieving the SDGs is a benefit to the Jamaican people. For instance, if we address child infant mortality, then more children survive – and so our planning must put in place the right interventions to do so. So, the SDGs might sound aspirational in some ways, but they have real life…, Helping children move up through the grades, Viviene: For us in education, RBB is critical for accountability. As planners if someone needs to understand how we arrived at an outcome we can reference the strategic plan and indicators which measure performance. Measurement and evaluation is part of our planning process. At each level you want children to move seamlessly through the system. We…, Raising performance for the future, Howard: MOHW is wanting to become more performance-based and the knowledge gained from the training, such as modelling a theory of change, will help us to do that and strengthen our measurement and evaluation too. Viviene: For viability of a country, a community, a home, the individual himself or herself must focus on preparing the youth, get…, UN and EU optimistic of improved budgeting, Dr. Garry Conille, United Nations Resident Coordinator:  The UN is proud to be supporting the people and Government of Jamaica to improve efficiency, effectiveness and equity in public expenditure and in so doing accelerating the achievement of the SDGs. We are grateful for the financial contribution of the Joint SDG Fund whose donors include: The…