UNICEF taps students' views on improving education system

UNICEF taps students' views on improving education system

Friday, November 20, 2020

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A series of consultations with hundreds of high school students to get their views on improving the education system is scheduled to begin today — World Children's Day.

Titled the Reimagine Education initiative, the series is being conducted by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the National Secondary Students Council (NSSC).

Students from rural to urban areas, including children with and without disabilities and those in State care, are expected to participate in the virtual consultations designed to also ensure that the voices of youth are included in the deliberations of the National Education Transformation Commission established by the prime minister earlier this year.

“After the series of consultations has concluded, a final report with the students' feedback will be submitted to the commission ahead of the March 2021 deadline for submission of its final report to Prime Minister Andrew Holness,” UNICEF explained in a news release yesterday.

“We are hearing from fellow students that they would like to see our education system focus in a direction that is geared towards the evolution of the world right now and not the past curriculum,” the release quotes 17-year-old NSSC member Ree-Anna Robinson. “These consultations will help us to discover more exciting ideas.”

Mariko Kagoshima, UNICEF Jamaica representative, commended the commission for wanting to hear from students about their challenges and proposed solutions. “After all, they are Jamaica's foremost experts on what it is like to be educated during a pandemic,” Kagoshima said.

The UN agency said that, globally, it has been focusing on supporting governments to prepare for a safe return to school and to 'Reimagine Education' after the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

“In Jamaica, UNICEF has supported the training of 1,200 educators via the Virtual Instructional Leadership course by the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL). UNICEF has also provided 500 tablets for children with disabilities, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information,” the release said.

The agency explained that Reimagine Education builds on a significant effort for World Children's Day 2019, in which UNICEF and the Government of Jamaica engaged over 300 children across the island to listen to their views on violence against children, as part of global efforts to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Those consultations culminated with a group of children addressing Parliament on the matter for the first time in the nation's history.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989, is one of the most important international treaties in the modern development of human rights. Three of its most progressive articles deserve special attention in Jamaica, where too many still believe that children should be seen but not heard by adults,” the release quotes Professor Orlando Patterson, chairman of the National Education Transformation Commission.

“Jamaica is a signatory to this treaty and I am in full agreement with it. I therefore applaud the UNICEF team's promotion of World's Children Day and, as chair of the Jamaica education transformation commission I strongly support its effort to learn the views of children and youth on how we might best reimagine and improve our system of education,” Patterson added.

Photos show some of the Clarendon high school students who participated in last year's #ENDviolence against Children Town Halls series.

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