Beginning September, the Ministry of Education is requiring all students entering school at the early childhood level and grade 7 in high schools, to undergo a structured medical examination.
The examination is aimed at assisting the Ministry to accurately identify students who are in need of medical intervention, and address some of the issues that may hinder their learning in school.
Speaking at a press conference on August 10, Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, said principals and teachers should start the term by first getting to know their students and insist that they (students) submit to the test that the Ministry has arranged, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
"It (the test) can’t all be done before September morning, but it must be done certainly, during the first part of the term, where we look not only at the physical health of the children, which is so important for their education, but also look at their emotional stability and their social arrangements, which will help to ensure that they make the best of their educational opportunities,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites added that the Ministry is seeking to engage the services, both voluntary and professional, of counselling psychologist and social workers. “We will be stressing to our guidance counsellors the need to develop a profile of each of the children under their care, especially those entering an educational institution,” he noted.
When asked if the Ministry had funds to address corrective measures once the tests are done, the Minister replied: “There is money, but it is not enough."
“We do have facilities within the Ministry of Health and the National Health Fund (NHF) that can be made available for those physical amenities, health related amenities, and we are already securing the support of that Ministry in this regard. It is harder to afford the professional therapies that are needed for the many emotionally disturbed and socially inadequate children,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites noted however, that the first need is to do the testing and diagnose the problems. He also insisted that education of the teachers should be advanced, as most of the problems identified will have to be dealt with within the school.
In the meantime, the Minister has instructed the regional offices to provide an available telephone number that the schools can contact for assistance. The medical examination project is in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Medical Association of Jamaica and other agencies.