Worsening social inequities in education now more extremeMonday, September 06, 2021
When the novel coronavirus pandemic first brought face-to-face education to a halt in Jamaica in March 2020 there was consensus that should it be extended for any length of time the consequences would be horrendous.
Back then, few thought that 18 months later the health crisis would have worsened to the extent that more than 1,600 people have died in Jamaica from complications associated with COVID-19 and in excess of 4.55 million globally.
As part of desperate efforts to curb virus spread Jamaicans now find themselves contending not just with stifling restrictions and protocols ongoing at various levels since early last year, but in recent weeks with no movement three days per week.
Inevitably, on today's first teaching day of the 2021 academic year, students and teachers will again be away from the physical classroom. They are being asked yet again to operate remotely with all the depressing related problems.
As has been experienced over the past year and a half, a large number of students will be unable to access online classes largely because they are without the electronic tools and/or have no Internet access. In short, their parents or guardians lack the economic resources to equip children.
In many cases, the Government, private groups and individuals donated digital devices. By now though, some of those devices are malfunctioning, broken, lost.
The long-standing concern about worsening social inequities in education is now even more extreme than before.
Yet, even children and teachers privileged to be fully equipped will have problems, especially at the younger age-group levels. For the very young especially, online education, by itself, will never be ideal.
That's all the more reason for acceleration of the current drive to vaccinate schoolchildren. We note reports last week that Prime Minister Andrew Holness is unhappy at what he considers to be the still too slow vaccination of students. We are told that up to late last week 40,000 of approximately 204,000 high school students had been vaccinated since the start on August 21.
The prime minister tells us that, in his personal view, vaccine hesitancy among parents is a major reason for perceived slow uptake.
Part of the solution, as Mr Holness pointed out, is to involve more schools as actual vaccination centres.
However, ultimately it is acceptance of the vaccination programme by the great majority of adults that will not only speed up resumption of physical school but help Jamaicans return to some semblance of normality.
The increased numbers at vaccination sites in recent times bring encouragement, as has taking the programme into communities as vaccines became more available.
Critically, we can't ignore the recent news out of the US that, effective October 1, all age-appropriate applicants for US immigrant visas must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for consideration.
Before that the US authorities had announced that applicants for a US green card who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines must be fully vaccinated.
It seems to us that when all is said and done it may well be these regulations originating elsewhere that will break the back of the damaging anti-vaccine sentiment here.
If that's what it takes, this newspaper will give thanks.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login