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FELLOW JAMAICANS: EVEN AS WE PREPARE FOR ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR AND RECOGNISE THE SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES CONFRONTING US, WE MUST BE BUOYED BY THE FACT THAT OUR PERFORMANCE AT CERTAIN LEVELS OF THE SYSTEM IS IMPROVING.
THE RESULTS OF BOTH THE GRADE SIX ACHIEVEMENT TEST AND THE CXC EXAMINATIONS SHOW MARGINAL IMPROVEMENTS. THIS IS DESPITE THE FACT THAT BOTH SETS OF STUDENTS PERFORMED UNDER EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES CREATED BY THE DISRUPTION OF CLASSES AFTER THE PASSAGE OF HURRICANE IVAN.
IN THE CASE OF GSAT, THE NATIONAL AVERAGE IN ALL SUBJECTS WAS HIGHER THAN LAST YEAR. THE CSEC RESULTS HAVE SHOWN IMPROVEMENTS OVER LAST YEAR, ESPECIALLY IN MATH AND ENGLISH.
NO DOUBT THE RESOLVE OF OUR TEACHERS, TOGETHER WITH THE REMEDIATION PROGRAMME INTRODUCED BY THE MINISTRY FOR CSEC MATH AND ENGLISH AND THE FOCUSSED, HARD WORK OF OUR STUDENTS ALL CONTRIBUTE TO THESE IMPROVEMENTS. I THANK ALL RESOURCE TEACHERS, MASTER TEACHERS AND OFFICERS WHO WORKED ON THE CSEC INTERVENTION. THIS SHOWS WHAT WE ALL CAN ACHIEVE WHEN WE WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM.
THE CAPE RESULTS, WHILE SATISFACTORY, STILL LEAVE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT. WE CONTINUE TO EMPHASIZE ADEQUATE PREPARATION OF TEACHERS THROUGH WORKSHOPS ORGANISED IN TANDEM WITH THE CARIBBEAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL. I ENCOURAGE ALL PRINCIPALS TO ENSURE THAT YOUR TEACHERS PARTICIPATE IN THE WORKSHOPS DESIGNED FOR CAPE TEACHERS.
EDUCATION TRANSFORMATION
WHILE WE ARE HEARTENED BY SOME INDICATIONS THAT WE ARE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. WE CANNOT PRETEND THAT WE HAVE EVEN BEGAN TO “TURN THE CORNER.” THE ACADEMIC YEAR 2005/06 WILL BE THE FIRST FULL YEAR FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE TASK FORCE FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM. ONE AREA OF FOCUS FOR THIS YEAR IS THE PROVISION OF QUALITY SPACE THROUGH COMPREHENSIVE REFURBISHING, MAINTENANCE AND THE CREATION OF ADDITIONAL PLACES.
THIS PROGRAMME HAS THREE COMPONENTS: THE POST IVAN COMPONENT SAW 692 SCHOOLS BEING REPAIRED AND IN MANY INSTANCES REFURBISHED UNDER THE OFFICE OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION WITH FUNDING PROVIDED BY SEVERAL LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL SOURCES. THIS COMPONENT HAS COST APPROXIMATELY $730M AND HAS NOW LARGELY BEEN COMPLETED.
THE SECOND COMPONENT INCLUDES JUST UNDER 300 SCHOOLS, WHICH HAVE BEEN EARMARKED FOR REPAIRS AND REFURBISHING UNDER THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION TRANSFORMATION PROCESS. TO DATE CONTRACTS HAVE BEEN SIGNED FOR MORE THAN 50% OF THOSE SCHOOLS AND WORK HAS STARTED. A NUMBER OF THOSE SCHOOLS WILL BE READY FOR THE START OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, WHILE THE MAJORITY WILL BE READY BY THE END OF SEPTEMBER.
THE THIRD COMPONENT- THE PROVISION OF CRITICALLY NEEDED PLACES IN SOME SCHOOLS, THE MAJORITY OF WHICH ARE IN ST CATHERINE – WILL COST US OVER $200M. THESE ARE AT DIFFERENT STAGES OF PREPARATION AND COMPLETION.
TO ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH ALL PROCEDURES FOR THE AWARD OF CONTRACTS, THERE HAS BEEN SOME DELAY IN THE IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS. THIS WAS FURTHER EXACERBATED BY THE PASSAGE OF HURRICANES DENNIS AND EMILY IN JULY.
HOWEVER, GIVEN OUR COMMITMENT TO ENSURING EVERY CHILD HAS A PLACE IN SCHOOL FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR, WE ARE CONSTRUCTING PROTOTYPE CLASSROOMS FOR THE SCHOOLS WITH THE GREATEST SPACE DEFICIT, FOUR OF WHICH ARE IN ST CATHERINE. THESE PROTOTYPE BUILDINGS WILL BE COMPLETED BY MID-SEPTEMBER. WE WILL BE INSTALLING SPECIAL TENTS IN A FEW OTHER SCHOOLS AS INTERIM ACCOMMODATION FOR STUDENTS. PRINCIPALS HAVE BEEN CONSULTED TO ASSIST WITH MAKING THE BEST POSSIBLE ARRANGEMENTS FOR PLACEMENT OF OUR CHILDREN.
ALL CLASSROOMS PROMISED UNDER THE THIRD COMPONENT WILL BE READY FOR OCCUPANCY BY THE END OF THE FIRST TERM OF THIS SCHOOL YEAR. I ASSURE YOU, WORK WILL BE DONE DURING WEEKENDS AND OUT OF CLASS HOURS TO ENSURE THAT STUDENTS ARE NOT DISTURBED OR DISLOCATED.
YOU WILL RECALL THAT AT THE START OF THE LAST SCHOOL YEAR, SEVERAL STUDENTS WHO HAD PERFORMED BELOW THE THRESHOLD OF THE GRADE NINE ACHIEVEMENT TEST DID NOT HAVE A PLACE IN ANY SCHOOL. THIS YEAR, WE HAVE WORKED ASSIDUOUSLY TO PREVENT A RECURRENCE OF THIS SITUATION. THE PROVISION OF ADDITIONAL CLASSROOMS WILL ENSURE A LONG-TERM SOLUTION IN MANY INSTANCES. HOWEVER, THE MASSIVE INCREASE IN THE SCHOOL POPULATION IN REGION THREE – THAT IS WESTERN ST MARY AND ST ANN – RESULTED INITIALLY IN INADEQUATE SPACE FOR THE GNAT STUDENTS.
THROUGH THE EFFORTS OF OUR OFFICERS, WORKING WITH OTHER PROVIDERS SUCH AS CHURCHES AND COMMUNITY ORGANISATIONS AND PROVISION, WE ARE NOW SATISFIED THAT ALL THESE STUDENTS HAVE BEEN PLACED.
FURNITURE
THE DELIVERY OF SCHOOLS FURNITURE IS CONTINUING. WE ARE DEALING WITH THE SCHOOLS WITH THE MOST CRITICAL NEEDS FIRST AND IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT BY THE END OF THE FIRST TERM ALL THE SCHOOLS INVOLVED SHOULD RECEIVE FURNITURE. I URGE ALL STUDENTS TO RESPECT THE SCHOOLS’ PROPERTY AND REMEMBER THAT FOR EACH CHAIR OR DESK YOU DEFACE OR DESTROY, YOU ARE LIMITING YOUR CHANCE OF LEARNING IN A COMFORTABLE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT.
DURING THE ACADEMIC YEAR, WE WILL CONTINUE THE PROVISION OF FURNITURE TO ENSURE COMFORTABLE SEATING AND STORAGE ARRANGEMENTS FOR OTHER STUDENTS AND TEACHERS.
GRANTS AND SUBVENTIONS
THE SUBVENTIONS FOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS AND REGULAR GRANTS FOR PRIMARY AND INFANT SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN DISPATCHED; FEEDING GRANTS FOR SCHOOLS ON THE COOKED LUNCH PROGRAMME ARE BEING DISBURSED AND THE CHEQUES FOR MAINTENANCE GRANTS HAVE BEEN DRAWN AND WILL BE DISPATCHED TO SCHOOLS WITH POST HASTE. WE APOLOGISE FOR THE DELAY, WHICH HAS BEEN CAUSED BY CIRCUMSTANCES LARGELY BEYOND THE CONTROL OF THE MINISTRY.
SECONDARY SCHOOL FEE ASSISTANCE
THIS YEAR, WE HAVE ATTEMPTED TO FURTHER EASE THE BURDEN OF SCHOOL FEES FOR PARENTS. SINCE THE 2002/03 ACADEMIC YEAR, PARENTS HAVE BEEN BENEFITING FROM FIXED SCHOOL FEES WHILE GOVERNMENT ABSORBS THE INCREASES GRANTED TO SCHOOLS. THIS YEAR, STUDENTS WILL BE REQUIRED TO PAY ONLY HALF OF THE ENDORSED FEES THAT WERE CHARGED IN 2002/03.
SEVERAL PARENTS HAVE INDICATED THAT THEY HAVE RECEIVED VOUCHERS FOR THEIR CHILDREN REQUIRING THEM TO PAY SUMS IN EXCESS OF THE ENDORSED FEES ANNOUNCED BY THE GOVERNMENT. AS A MINISTRY POLICY THERE SHOULD BE TWO SEPARATE VOUCHERS – ONE FOR THE ENDORSED FEES AND THE OTHER FOR AUXILIARY CHARGES.
ALL PARENTS ARE REQUIRED TO PAY THE ENDORSED FEES. WHILE WE UNDERSTAND THE FINANCIAL CHALLENGES OF SCHOOLS, WE ALSO EMPHASIZE THAT PAYMENT OF SOME AUXILIARY CHARGES MUST BE REGARDED AS VOLUNTARY. WE URGE PARENTS TO DISCUSS WITH PRINCIPALS ARRANGEMENTS FOR THEIR MAKING CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SCHOOLS. AFTER ALL THE BENEFITS DERIVED WILL BE IN THE INTEREST OF YOUR CHILDREN.
THE PATH PROGRAMME ADMINISTERED BY THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL SECURITY PROVIDES FOR FULL PAYMENT OF SCHOOL FEES FOR ALL ITS BENEFICIARIES AS WELL AS A CASH BENEFIT OF $800 EVERY TWO MONTHS. THOSE PARENTS WHO GENUINELY CANNOT AFFORD TO MAKE ANY FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO THEIR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION SHOULD APPLY TO THE PATH PROGRAMME. THERE IS NO DEADLINE DATE FOR APPLICATION.
FEES AT PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS
SOME PARENTS MAY BE PLACING STUDENTS IN PRIVATE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS. THE MINISTRY HAS COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH SEVERAL OF THESE INSTITUTIONS AND CONSIDERS THEM IMPORTANT PLAYERS IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR.
THESE INSTITUTIONS SHOULD BE REGISTERED WITH THE MINISTRY AND PROGRAMMES OFFERED BY THEM SHOULD BE ACCREDITED BY A RECOGNISED BODY SUCH AS THE CARIBBEAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL (CXC) UNIVERSITY COUNCIL OF JAMAICA (UCJ) OR THE NATIONAL COUNCIL ON TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING (NCTVET). IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU VERIFY THAT THE SCHOOL IS ALSO IN SOUND FINANCIAL STANDING WITH THE RELEVANT EXAMINING BODY AND THAT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FAIR COMPETITION ACT, THERE IS A CLEAR REFUND POLICY AT THESE SCHOOLS.
TO ENSURE THAT YOU GET VALUE FOR YOUR MONEY, THE MINISTRY THROUGH THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS SECTION PROVIDES INFORMATION ON SCHOOLS, WHICH ARE REGISTERED.
TEXTBOOKS
THE GOVERNMENT IS PROVIDING 2.2 MILLION TEXTBOOKS AND WORKBOOKS FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL STUDENTS THIS YEAR AT A COST OF JUST UNDER $300 MILLION. THE DISTRIBUTION OF THESE BOOKS IS ON TARGET. THE TEXTBOOKS COVER THE SUBJECTS ENGLISH LANGUAGE, MATHEMATICS, SOCIAL STUDIES AND SCIENCE. THE SERIES THAT WE HAVE CHOSEN IS OF A VERY HIGH STANDARD AND HAS BEEN WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR THE CURRICULUM.
IN FACT, THERE ARE NO OTHER BOOKS, WHICH ARE SO CLOSELY ALIGNED TO THE CURRICULUM AS THE ONES PROVIDED BY THE GOVERNMENT. THIS IS SO ESPECIALLY FOR GRADES 1-3. AS PARENTS, YOU SHOULD ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO READ. A BOOK IS A TREMENDOUS TREASURE, SO DO NOT HESITATE TO INVEST IN BOOKS. AT THE SAME TIME, DO NOT FEEL COMPELLED TO BUY ANY LONG LIST OF SUPPLEMENTARY TEXTS FOR YOUR CHILDREN AT THESE GRADE LEVELS.
WE DO HAVE ON OUR WEBSITE, A LIST OF APPROVED TEXTS FOR PRIMARY AND JUNIOR HIGH, ALL-AGE AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS. IN THE MEANTIME, WE ARE DEVELOPING A POLICY REGARDING APPROVED BOOKS FOR GRADES 1-6.
WE APOLOGISE FOR A SLIGHT DELAY IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF SECONDARY TEXTBOOKS OWING TO THE PROCESS OF APPROVAL OF THE AWARD OF CONTRACTS TO LOCAL PUBLISHERS. HOWEVER, WE HAVE STARTED DISTRIBUTION AND WILL COMPLETE THIS BY THE END OF SEPTEMBER. I WANT PARENTS TO NOTE THAT THE COST FOR RENTING THESE TEXTBOOKS HAS ALSO BEEN ABSORBED BY THE GOVERNMENT SO NO CHILD SHOULD BE DEPRIVED OF TEXTBOOKS.
STUDENTS ARE URGED TO TAKE CARE OF THE TEXTS AS THEY ARE ONLY ON LOAN FOR ONE YEAR. SCHOOLS SHOULD ENSURE THAT ALL THESE TEXTS ARE RETURNED BEFORE DISTRIBUTING A SECOND SET.
PERFORMANCE INTERVENTIONS
DURING THIS ACADEMIC YEAR, ALL STAKEHOLDERS WILL BE RALLIED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROCESS FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM. THE STRATEGIC PLAN TO GUIDE THE PROCESS IS NOW BEING DEVELOPED. WE ARE DETERMINED THAT THE CRITICAL ASPECTS OF THE SYSTEM NEED TO DEMONSTRATE ENHANCED PERFORMANCE DURING THE THREE YEAR PERIOD OF IMPLEMENTATION OF THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS.
EARLY CHILDHOOD
THE PILOT REGISTRATION OF EARLY CHILDHOOD INSTITUTIONS WILL COMMENCE THIS MONTH IN ST. CATHERINE AND CLARENDON. THIS IS INTEGRAL TO THE REGULATING AND MONITORING OF STANDARDS FOR PRE-SCHOOLS. WE ALSO HOPE THAT EARLY IN THIS SCHOOL YEAR, THERE WILL BE THE PILOTING OF ASPECTS OF THE NEW EARLY CHILDHOOD CURRICULUM.
TEACHER PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
THE TEACHER PERFORMANCE EVALUATION SYSTEM INTRODUCED LAST ACADEMIC YEAR WILL BE FULLY IMPLEMENTED THIS YEAR. UNDER THIS PROGRAMME WE ARE EMPHASIZING MEASURABLE OUTCOMES FOR SCHOOLS. WE URGE ALL PRINCIPALS TO ENSURE TARGETS ARE SET FOR THEIR SCHOOLS AS WELL AS FOR EACH TEACHER. THE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION INSTRUMENTS ARE NOT PUNITIVE MEASURES BUT AIMED AT IDENTIFYING THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF OUR TEACHERS AND THE INSTITUTIONS SO THAT ALL OF US CAN BUTTRESS THE STRENGTHS WHILE CORRECTING THE WEAKNESSES.
SECURITY
SECURITY HAS BECOME A MAJOR ISSUE IN MANY SCHOOLS. WE WERE ALL DUMBFOUNDED AT THE BRUTAL SLAYING OF ONE OF OUR PRINCIPALS LAST WEEK. WE EXTEND OUR DEEPEST SYMPATHIES TO HIS WIFE AND FAMILY. EQUALLY DISTRESSING WAS THE NEWS OF THE SENSELESS SLAYING OF ONE OF OUR CLASSROOM TEACHERS AT HER HOME. WE MOURN HER DEATH AND CONVEY OUR SYMPATHY TO HER FAMILY.
THE SAFE SCHOOLS PROGRAMME IS AN INNOVATION AIMED AT PROTECTING OUR SCHOOLS, THE CHILDREN, TEACHERS AND OTHER WORKERS ON THE CAMPUSES INCLUDED IN THE PROGRAMME. WE PLACED CONCERTED AND CONCENTRATED EFFORTS ON THOSE ENVIRONMENTS, WHICH ACCORDING TO THE STATISTICS, WERE MOST PRONE TO COMMUNITY AND OTHER VIOLENCE, WHILE MAINTAINING A PREVENTIVE PRESENCE IN OTHERS DEEMED NOT SO SUSCEPTIBLE. NOW WE HAVE TO FACE THE REALITY THAT THERE IS NO LIMIT TO THE REACH OF VIOLENCE.
OUR SCHOOLS SHOULD NOT BE VULNERABLE TO THE VICISSITUDES OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT. AS EDUCATORS, WE KNOW THAT IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO CHANGE THE ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOURS OF OUR POPULATION SO THAT ALL JAMAICANS WILL RESPECT THE LIVES OF OTHERS AND LEARN PEACEFUL CONFLICT RESOLUTION. WE DO NOT RESILE FROM THIS RESPONSIBILITY. THIS WE MUST CONTINUE TO DO.
IMMEDIATELY, WE MUST COMMIT OURSELVES TO RE-EXAMINING THE COMMUNITIES FOR GREATER EMPHASIS AND IMPACT OF THE SAFE SCHOOLS PROGRAMME, EVALUATE THE SECURITY SYSTEMS OF OUR SCHOOLS INCLUDING THE TRAINING OF SECURITY GUARDS AND PROVISION OF PERIMETER FENCING.
LET ME, HOWEVER, LEVEL WITH YOU AND INDICATE THAT GIVEN THE COSTS OF MANY OF THESE SECURITY INTERVENTIONS, WE HAVE TO WEIGH AND BALANCE THE PROVISION OF THESE AGAINST THE PROVISION OF TEACHING AND LEARNING SUPPORT MATERIALS. THE MORE WE SPEND ON SECURITY, THE LESS WE WILL HAVE FOR OTHER ESSENTIALS AT THE SCHOOL LEVEL.
WE MUST ENHANCE OUR COLLABORATION WITH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS, SUCH AS THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION TO ASSIST US IN EDUCATING COMMUNITIES TO REGARD THE SCHOOL, (ITS PERSONNEL AND ITS ENVIRONS) AS AN ASSET, WHICH EACH MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY MUST PROTECT.
CONCLUSION
FINALLY, I WISH ALL STUDENTS A SAFE, EXCITING AND PRODUCTIVE JOURNEY THROUGH THIS SCHOOL YEAR. MAKE THE BEST OF WHAT THE SCHOOL OFFERS; PARENT, I ENCOURAGE YOU TO WORK WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND GIVE THE SUPPORT NECESSARY FOR THEM TO OPTIMISE THEIR OPPORTUNITIES IN SCHOOL.
PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS, OFFICIALS OF THE MoEYC, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED DEDICATION TO ENSURE HIGH ACADEMIC STANDARDS AND HIGH STANDARDS OF DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS. I KNOW THAT THE MAJORITY OF YOU UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THAT THERE IS A GREATER DEMAND ON YOU TO RAISE THE BAR OF ACHIEVEMENT EVEN HIGHER. PARENTS TRUST US TO DO SO. THEY GIVE US THEIR CHILDREN FOR AT LEAST FIVE TO SIX HOURS A DAY, FIVE DAYS A WEEK.
THERE IS AN EXPECTATION THAT WE WILL EDUCATE THEM, NURTURE THEM, MENTOR THEM AND CARE FOR THEM. SO WE ARE COUNTING ON OUR TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS TO DO THIS JOB WELL.
THE NATURE OF THIS GLOBAL SOCIETY DEMANDS THAT FOR EACH LEVEL OF ACHIEVEMENT WE NEED TO LIFT THE STANDARD EVEN HIGHER. IT IS NOT EASY. LET US ALSO BE REMINDED THAT THE TRANSFORMATION OF A COMPLEX ORGANISATION IS A FORMIDABLE CHALLENGE.
IT WILL BE A CHALLENGE TO WORK THROUGH ALL OF THE CHANGES NECESSARY TO IMPROVE THE SYSTEM. AND OUR WORK IS FAR FROM FINISHED. BUT THE STRUGGLE WILL BE WORTH IT. AFRO-AMERICAN WRITER, FREDERICK DOUGLAS SAYS: NOTHING WORTH DOING COMES WITHOUT STRUGGLE; THE MORE IMPORTANT THE ACTION, THE GREATER THE STRUGGLE.
I ASK YOU ALL TO SEE THE EDUCATION REFORM PROCESS NOT AS A FLASH-IN-THE-PAN COSMETIC SOLUTION BUT AS A SUSTAINED FUNDAMENTAL SHIFT IN THE PROCESSES, POLICIES AND PRINCIPLES OF OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM THAT WILL BRING ABOUT THE QUALITY THAT WE ARE STRIVING TOWARDS. IT CALLS FOR CONTINUOUS DIALOGUE WITH AND PARTICIPATION OF ALL OUR STAKEHOLDERS. IT MEANS WORKING TOGETHER AS A TEAM.
WHATEVER SACRIFICES WE MAKE NOW; WHATEVER HARD WORK WE PUT IN NOW WILL MAKE US CONFIDENT ABOUT THE YEARS TO COME. EACH DAY OF HARD WORK BRINGS US CLOSER TO THE BEST IN JAMAICAN EDUCATION AS WE CLOSE THE GAPS. EACH DAY WE TAKE ONE STEP CLOSER TO A FIRST CLASS GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN WHICH EVERY CHILD WILL LEARN. WE WILL ALL BE PROUD TO KNOW THAT WE DID IT TOGETHER.
GOD BLESS YOU ALL