Thursday 22 October, 2020

E-COVID Management Task Force established to guide school reopening

Fayval Williams

Fayval Williams

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has announced that it is in the process of establishing an E-COVID Management Task Force that will be tasked with arriving at consensus on the reopening and management of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools were shuttered on March 13, three days after Jamaica confirmed its first positive COVID-19 case. Since then, the date for the reopening of schools has been pushed back from September 7 to October 5, as COVID-19 cases have surged to 4,164, with more than 40 deaths as of Wednesday.

The newly-appointed Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams, will chair the task force. She will be joined by her equally new State Minister, Robert Morgan.

A statement from the ministry on Wednesday said the aim of the task force is to help to bring greater clarity to the road map for the reopening of schools.

Williams made the announcement of the task force during a meeting that was attended by Morgan, members of the executive of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), led by its President, Jasford Gabriel, immediate Past President, Owen Speid, and Secretary General, Byron Farquharson, as well as senior officers of the ministry.

The E-COVID Task Force is to be comprised of representatives of stakeholder groups in the education sector, including the JTA, Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, the Joint Committee for Tertiary Education, Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students, the Ecumenical Education Committee, UWI Guild of Students, National Council on Education, the Jamaica Independent Schools’ Association, among others.

During Wednesday's meeting, Williams assured the JTA president and his team of the ministry’s commitment to maintaining robust and open communication with the association.

"The discussions focused on the infrastructure in place at schools to allow for online and remote learning, as well as the administrative protocols which schools will have to implement for the new school year,” the ministry said in the statement.

It advised that Morgan reiterated the ministry’s commitment to having a comprehensive solution covering health, education and technology to ensure that students, parents, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders will remain safe and engaged.

For his part, Gabriel noted that Jamaica is facing challenging times, and commended the Education Ministry for the efforts being made to train teachers for online education, the preparation and sharing of the Education-in-Emergencies Manual, and provision of material for sanitisation in schools, among other things.

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