UNICEF, private sector organisations call for urgent resumption of face-to-face classes

October 25, 2021

Several organisations have issued an open letter calling on the Government of Jamaica to urgently reopen schools for face-to-face classes, and to share plans for learning loss recovery and more resilience in the education system as COVID-19 continues. 

The letter is co-signed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), National Parent-Teachers Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Jamaica Employers Federation and the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica.

According to the groups,  Jamaica’s children have lost an estimated 1.3 billion in-class hours over 19 months of physical school closures.

The group argues that the learning loss is staggering, and 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 group noted.

"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," the organisations continued.

They have called on the governement  to urgently ensure the safe face-to-face re-opening of Jamaica’s schools and to remove any barriers that stand in the way, inclusive of 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," the group asserted.

The organisations have also charged the governement to clearly articulate effective and evidence-based strategies and implementation plans to ensure that the education system delivers a comprehensive recovery response.

Proposing 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.

The groups have also asked to government to put in place the policies and resources necessary to make the education system more resilient.

"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. "

In noting that adequate funding is needed, the organisations shared a recently concluded Public Expenditure Review conducted by UNICEF and the World Bank, which 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 group has suggested that the projected cost of failing to do this would be JMD $828 billion. 

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