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Education ministry to make physical education mandatory for schools

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Education, Youth and Information Minister Ruel Reid, says that schools across the island will be mandated to institute a physical activity programme for students at all levels.

“They must have... a programme for exercise that promotes good, healthy lifestyles for all grade levels. From grades seven right through to 13, and certainly at the early-childhood institutions, we will be promoting good health,” he said.

Reid was speaking at Cumberland High School in Portmore, St Catherine, on September 19, as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Jamaica observed the World's Largest Lesson (WLL) 2017.

The minister noted that recently, Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, revealed that there is a “very high level of obesity” in Jamaica, with close to “42 per cent of the population considered obese”. This, he noted is “very worrying”. ,p> “We also learnt from the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) that about 30 per cent of our population has high blood pressure. A lot of the high blood pressure and the obesity have to do with what we eat, and so this (physical activity programme) is important,” he pointed out.

In keeping with the healthy-lifestyle programme for schools, Reid informed that the policy on nutrition for canteens is expected to be completed by the end of the Christmas term.

“We would like school canteens to have certain amounts of calories in each of the products and meals they are serving. How you manage your nutrition is the amount of calories you are (consuming),” he said. ,p> The WLL seeks to introduce the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), also known as the Global Goals, to children and young people.

The 17 SDGs are condensed in three objectives – end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.

UNICEF hopes to achieve the objectives within the next 15 years, and encourages schools around the world to teach a lesson, or assemble to introduce or remind students of the Goals and get them to think about how they can help in achieving them.

Quality Education Specialist with UNICEF, Dr Rebecca Tortello Greenland, said for this year's WLL the focus is on SDG three, which speaks to hunger, good health and well-being.

Under the theme 'Every Plate Tells a Story', children are invited to consider how their food choices impact the SDGs and to pledge to make changes.

These include healthy eating, reducing wastage, eliminating the use of plastic packaging, and sourcing food closer to home.

“Really, what we in Jamaica as UNICEF are trying to do, and my colleagues elsewhere, is to get teachers to have fun exploring the bank of material that exists on the SDGs,” she said. Dr Tortello Greenland noted that lessons exist in the SDGs, which are age-appropriate for students from early childhood to high school.

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