Mr. Speaker,

I rise today to make my contribution to the Sectoral Debate of the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

This marks the 40th consecutive year I have served in this Honourable House. I consider it a great honour and privilege to have been given the opportunity to serve the people of Jamaica as a Member of Parliament. I wish to thank them most sincerely for their continued support.

In particular I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness for allowing me the opportunity to continue working as Minister of Education, Youth and Information.

Since assuming oversight responsibility of the Ministry, I have developed a deeper appreciation of the tremendous challenges confronting the education sector as well as the opportunities for making significant changes in the circumstances of the lives of children across the island.

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank the Ministry’s staff led by Dr. Grace McLean, Acting Permanent Secretary, Acting Chief Education Officer, Dr. Kasan Troupe and other members of the Executive Management team and related agencies for putting in long hours of hard work to implement the Government’s policies and programmes. Very special thanks to my support staff in the Ministry who continue to give me their full support at all times.

Special thanks also to the thousands of school administrators and teachers who continue to serve our children under challenging circumstances at times. The successes that we have achieved so far are in no small measure due to their level of commitment and dedication to service.

COVID – 19

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the Ministry’s work in a big way by causing major adjustments in school operations. Face-to-face teaching was suspended and the Ministry’s budget had to be re-aligned. The national and exit exam schedules had to be postponed and new protocols and practices were introduced for remote teaching and learning as well as interaction on school campuses.

Amid all this disruption, the Ministry’s team, our principals, teachers, and parents rose to the challenge and responded in creative ways to allow for the continuing education of our 578,312 students. The measures that we were forced to adopt, would have been considered unthinkable six months ago.

Our students are to be found in the 1878 private institutions (to include 1673 basic schools) and over 1000 public institutions (including private and public tertiary institutions) across the island.

Mr. Speaker, today I will provide an update on the pandemic’s impact on our schools, the Ministry’s response to date as well as the plans moving forward for the upcoming school year. I will also bring members up to date on new initiatives undertaken by the Ministry during the past year.

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