More schools off shift system, says Williams
ROSE HALL, St James – Education Minister Fayval Williams has revealed that, under her watch, 32 of 38 public schools have so far been taken off the shift system as part of her ministry’s effort to transform the sector.
“A big effort for us at the ministry is the ‘deshifting’ of those schools that are still on shift. We got a report… [that] of the 38 that I was told when I came into the ministry, we are at 32 schools that we can declare officially that are off shift and have been given additional classrooms and the accompanying infrastructure, such as improved bathroom facilities, additional staffroom and so on, to be able to comfortably get off the shift,” said Williams.
Her comments came during an address to the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals Conference held at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St James last Friday.
Implemented as a temporary solution to overcrowded schools, the shift system has long been planned by educators who point to its negative effects. There have been concerns, for example, that students at shift-based schools have about four-and-a-half hours of contact time per day, compared with five-and-a-half hours at schools not on the shift system. Because second-shift classes end later in the evening than schools with one shift, there are implications for transportation and security, with some children reaching home at night.
The shift system has also been unpopular because of concerns that it affects social and cultural activities at schools where it is in place.
The education minister has vowed to disband the system entirely.
“Our goal is to have zero at the end of the process, because we want our students to get full access to the time that they deserve at school and to be able to fully participate in extracurricular activities and whatever else is available at the schools for them. We will continue on that effort,” Williams promised.
These efforts often include significant investment to provide the infrastructure needed to accommodate all of a school’s students at the same time. This dovetails with a recommendation in the Professor Orlando Patterson-led Jamaica Education Transformation Commission report to improve infrastructure within the country’s schools.
Williams said infrastructure and technology in schools account for two-thirds of the funds needed to carry out what was contained in the report that was released in January 2022.
The minister, who revealed that the Mona School of Business had been hired to help her team prioritise the recommendations to help determine how long they will take to implement and how much they will cost, opted not to divulge the price tag.
“It is a huge cost, but not one that I will divulge here this morning, but it is significant,” she said.
Some problems, she hinted, may have to wait while other areas receive attention.
“We are well aware of the leaking roofs and so on across the sector. With the annual budgets we have, we do the best that we can [while] at the same time advocating for more,” said Williams.