24 March 2023

Jamaican children need education that fuels their dreams

Ree-Anna Robinson, 20, has been working with UNICEF Jamaica to provide a youth perspective on education and mental health advocacy for students in Jamaica. Ree-Anna has helped to lead the “Reimagine Education” initiative, addressing the Transforming Education Summit in New York City on behalf of Jamaican students and with U-Report, guided the…, We need to break barriers to education, Our socio-economic barriers to education really stifle our dreams, especially at the tertiary level, where under 30 per cent of the young people in Jamaica actually make it through to university, with a prominent issue being funding of tuition. Further adding to this issue,there are those who are enrolled but may not be able to study what they…, Mental health issues need to be addressed, In Jamaica, we have been good at highlighting basic needs which schools must provide such as food security through feeding programmes. It is easier for us to identify these but we do not pay enough attention to the mental health of students and how to adequately identify and support them until it is much too late. My mental health advocacy was…, What policy makers can do, In addressing structural issues in the education system, I want a safer school environment. I want increased access to mental health services, resources, normalising conversations through holistic sensitisation of all stakeholders who interact with young people. It can’t be left to teachers or guidance counsellors alone, especially when (on…, What’s UNICEF doing?, UNICEF Jamaica is working with young people to bring attention to the need for improved mental health support and care for children and adolescents. One of our critical initiatives is the U-Matter Chatline. It is provided free by UNICEF’s  U-Report  messaging service for youth, connecting users aged 16-24 years to chat anonymously and…
21 October 2021

Reopen schools for all

Open letter by UNICEF and stakeholders, Calling on government to reopen schools fully and safely; implement recovery plans and build resilient systems [SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO] 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…, 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.…, 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…, 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…
09 November 2020

Teachers learning new ways for no child to be left behind

[SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH VIDEO] Read the report  Education on hold: A generation of children in Jamaica, the Caribbean and Latin America are missing out on their schooling “I wanted to get my education”, says 11-year-old Joel Young as he scribbles in his notebook. At his parents’ wooden house in Little Bay, a small rural fishing community on the west…, Digital divide under the spotlight, The pandemic has put the spotlight on the inequities of the education sector in Jamaica as never before, highlighting the digital divide in the country:  in 34% of households, children do not have exclusive access to an Internet device for education purposes . Also, there are glaring disparities between urban and rural areas. “We have now seen…, Helping teachers to cross divide, In this context, UNICEF partnered with the Ministry of Education through its National College for Educational Leadership, NCEL, to  launch a Virtual Instructional Leadership programme in June . The goal: share tools within the education sector to improve child-centred distance learning and present different options for remote contact with students…, 1,200 teachers trained so far, Among those enrolled in the course was  Keron King, principal at Little Bay All Age and Infant School , where Joel Young studies. Energetic and creative, King was already exploring online tools to boost learning when the pandemic hit. “I think the virtual platform did an excellent job in terms of providing that kind of support (to) the teachers…, Rural principal driven to innovate, King also encouraged all of the teachers to take the course. “I felt that this wasn’t something just for my own self, but I think it should be shared information for all members of staff,” he says. The online tools provided new possibilities for a school that was already exploring ingenious ways to tackle the challenges of remote teaching. In…, Bike taxis help connect students, A week after delivering the material, the drop off team picks up the completed assignments and delivers a new set. Such an effort makes an important difference, especially for families who live far away from school, separated not only by the lack of technology —telephones or internet— but also by the lack of safe roads. For those children,…, “The teachers are always there”, 12-year-old Sasheena is among the students benefiting from the programme. While her mother stirs a large metal pot in her sprawling restaurant, Sasheena sits nearby, completing her weekly lesson on her laptop. “Things that I don’t understand I’ll go contact my teacher over WhatsApp or video-call and she’ll help me – explain things to me so that I…, Offline and online learning options, “As it is, I’m a bit satisfied with the work that Mr. King provide(s),” says Sasheena’s mother, Kaedia Ellis Johnson. “She has access to the internet. She go(es) on  EduFocal  (a Jamaican online learning platform) and the teachers provide work on WhatsApp. I have a full-time business, gratefully the teachers are always there to assist if I’m not…, Still striving for best possible results, As Joel sits with his siblings at the living room table – turned make-shift school desk – the oldest, a 15-year-old, and Joel’s father take turns supervising the schoolwork when they can. Unable to contact his teachers through online devices, Joel still follows the routine he would if he were in an actual classroom whenever he has a question. “I…
09 May 2020

Community blackboards keep children learning

[SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO] School may be closed but I still leave the house at 6 am every day for work at Union Gardens Infant School. In the community where the school is situated I asked to take over a community blackboard and then painted another where I write each day’s schoolwork – on one for the four-year-olds, and the other for the five-year-…, Initiative embraced by community members, At the start, people were just curious. They were wondering: why is she painting the wall black? Some asked if I had permission. They didn’t see the strength of it but then they saw me coming back each day; and parents and children following after. From that point people started making wonderful, pleasant and positive comments. Other parents want…, COVID-19 calls for creative teaching, Honestly, if I could just put up an electronic billboard in Half-Way-Tree then I would. But we don’t have the budget, and neither can I fall over and play dead. I just had to do what I had to do. In my efforts to keep toiling on “I had to do with my might what my hands find to do.” Parents are happy because a lot of them couldn’t understand how to…, Children need hands-on learning, One thing I realised is that Jamaican children can’t just abruptly exit out of the traditional setting. They need that hands-on learning because they were used to the blackboard and the teacher as their physical guide hearing and seeing their instructions. So, twice weekly I host a Parent Centered Virtual Classroom (PCVC) on Zoom to teach the…, Parents embracing teaching role, Parents will just call or text me to reflect on how it’s working – was their child having challenges or did the child find this to be easy. When they get it right with their child you hear them bragging, that they are so happy to have found this ability within themselves. Now they are like “I did it!” or “Miss, I never know I could teach!” Union…, Solutions must fit children’s reality, Thinking about it, I was able to come up with this approach because I am not tech-savvy, and so I was more connected to the reality of the parents who lack internet access or digital skills. When the principal asked us for ideas on how to make education more accessible it was easier for me to think of practical ways to reach people like me! As…, What's UNICEF doing?, This post is part of a series looking at how COVID-19 is impacting children and families and also people who are addressing their challenges. Post your  #COVID19diaries  story to social media and tag @unicefjamaica to be featured! For more information about our response to COVID-19 assisting government and non-governmental organisations to protect…
21 April 2020

Learning continues at this rural school, via motorbike!

[SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO] At Little Bay Primary School in Westmoreland, where I am Principal, we have a lot of communities that are far off main roads and cannot be reached by normal transport. Some of our students may not always have internet access, and with school being closed they are even more disadvantaged. Now is the time to think of…, Leaving no child behind, Parents too have been excited – they say no one has ever reached out to us like this. We do our best to ensure that no child is left out of teaching and learning. We take our school register with us and with each delivery we mark the children present as if we would for school. The next week we pick up the work and in the meantime teachers can…, Thanks to partnership, How it came together was simple: a partnership between the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the school, the parents and the community. I especially want to thank our Senior Education Officer Patricia Haughton in Region 4. I emailed her all the work for students and while she was at home, she got them printed and organised at her…, Ensuring equality of access, We must recognise that not every child has access to the internet. Before COVID-19 our computer teacher Romaine Penado from the  Rockhouse Foundation  would come in on a Saturday and those children who can’t access at home come to the lab to use computers there – we also arrange for their transport. Some people may see us as ‘way out inna bush’,…, What is UNICEF doing?, For more information about our response to COVID-19 assisting government and non-governmental organisations to protect the rights of children, and to access resources for parents, visit our webpage dedicated to this emergency:  unicef.org/jamaica/coronavirus-disease-covid-19 This post is part of a series looking at how COVID-19 is impacting…