KINGSTON, Jamaica – Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams, is insisting that the education ministry will allow school administrators to enforce rules regarding school uniforms.
She reiterated that position during Wednesday morning’s post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
“It is not currently done and it is not our (the ministry’s) intention to prescribe the length of a girl’s uniform or the length of a boy’s pants or the size of it. We leave those decisions to our boards in our schools and each school has a board comprising a parent and student representative,” Williams said.
She added that "We believe the decisions about uniforms are best done at the school level. We encourage a consultative process. Uniforms have been a staple in the Jamaican culture, in the Jamaican society going back probably centuries".
Williams explained that the policy of the ministry is an overarching one that does not prescribe the details for schools. According to the ministry, the local policy of each school should be written.
It also states the following:
-The policy should be arrived at through a consultative process with all stakeholders i.e. parents, teachers, students and others
-The policy should not be discriminatory
-It must recognise cultural and religious differences
-It must be applied fairly across the board
Williams told the media briefing that the standard by which the policy will be measured is very high.
She highlighted that schools take great pride in designing uniforms and in prescribing exactly what they should look like and provide the information on their websites.
She pointed to the recent incident at Godfrey Stewart High School where some students and parents alleged that students were locked out because the girls’ uniforms were too short and khaki pants worn by some boys were deemed to be tight-fitting.
Williams said it was her understanding that the school arrived at a decision about the length of uniforms through a process and parents were sensitised to this starting in May this year.
“My position as a minister, our position as a ministry, is that we will continue to stand on the side of discipline, of law and order. We believe our schools are the ideal place in which to teach our students to obey rules, beginning with obeying the school rules,” she stated.
The minister urged that if there are rules that any stakeholder, including parents and students do not like, they are encouraged to engage the process. This, she said could be via a meeting with a principal and, if dissatisfied, a letter to the board may suffice.
“We have to get to that point in our school system where not just students and parents and all stakeholders are operating in a space where there is respect for everyone in that space and if there’s disagreement there’s a process through which you air what that disagreement is; you talk it through and you come to some consensus,” said Williams.