JIS News

Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Jasper Lawrence has assured that schools are in a state of readiness, in spite of the effects of Hurricane Dean. “Whether the conditions created by the hurricane have been severe or mild, we have responded and our schools should be quite ready for the start of the new school year,” Mr. Lawrence emphasised on (Sept. 5), during a JIS ‘Think Tank’ at the agency’s Half-Way-Tree Road head office, in Kingston.
Detailing the recovery work being undertaken, Mr. Lawrence informed that the Ministry’s technical teams have completed most of their assessments.
“Where schools sustained damage to a value of $1 million and below and they have the capacity to undertake their own repairs, we are providing them with cheques to do so,” he said.
“Where repairs cannot be completed before September 10, there are provisions in place to have roof covers and tarpaulins provided, so that even while work is taking place, every school will be able to resume classes even on a phased basis,” he added.
In cases where students have lost their uniforms as a result of the hurricane, Mr. Lawrence noted that the decision to relax the school’s dress codes would have to be made by the principals.
“The decision as to whether or not they will be required to wear the stipulated school uniform will be taken at the school level, because the principals and teachers would be fully aware of the circumstances of the students in their particular schools,” he told JIS News.
In terms of staffing, Mr. Lawrence said that all schools have designated principals or acting principals to provide adequate leadership for the start of the school year and most schools have already begun their orientation programme and their pre-school staff sessions.
“Where schools require additional teachers, that has already been treated with by our regional offices, so that teachers are provided in terms of the official ratio which currently is one teacher to 35 students at the primary level, one teacher to 25 students in high schools and one teacher to 20 students in technical high schools,” he explained.
Continuing, he noted that in some high schools where the Ministry has placed additional students through the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT), this would require not only additional teaching staff, but also additional support staff, and that has also been addressed.
According to Mr. Lawrence, all grants and subventions have already been disbursed to the schools. “Schools have received their annual maintenance grant, school feeding grants and other subventions, so our schools should have adequate financing to deal with start-up,” the Chief Education Officer reassured.
With regard to the provision of text books, Mr. Lawrence said that the Ministry has begun to deliver books to high schools across the island and “primary schools will receive their text books during the first week or two of the school term.”
“We have deliberately delayed the delivery of primary text books, because most of our primary schools do not have adequate storage and most of the books that we provide at the primary level are books that students own and will take home, hence the need to deliver these books when schools are in operation,” he further pointed out.
In the meantime, Head of the Technical Services Division at the Ministry, Lauriston Wilson noted that measures have been put in place to truck water to schools located in communities where the National Water Commission (NWC) has not yet restored water supply.
As it relates to the restoration of electricity, he noted that the Ministry would be replanting the poles that were uprooted on school compounds, so that the schools will be able to receive electricity as soon as it is restored in the communities.

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