Fayval Williams has defended her leadership of the education ministry, arguing that she has racked up a long list of achievements since the start of her tenure in September 2020.
"The prime minister put me at the Ministry of Education and Youth and that's a decision only for the prime minister. I can list a long list of achievements since I've been at the ministry working with the team, of which I am proud, and I know the team is happy as well," she told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday.
Williams was responding to Opposition spokesman on education, Senator Damion Crawford who, on Wednesday, said that the ministry needed new energy and creativity.
Crawford, told journalists at a news conference that if the minister is incapable of exerting the energy, interest and excitement that the education sector demands, then the minister needs to be changed.
"However, I believe that the first call is for the minister to understand and accept her need to change and indicate to the public that she can do better, and that she does not misunderstand the circumstances that face the education system. We are saying the minister either needs to change, or be changed, depending on her ability to change," Crawford said.
On Thursday, though, Williams argued that while the education system is not perfect, it should be noted that this is not a new situation.
"It's a system that has been around for many decades, and some of the issues are inherited, and some of the top ones I'm working on now, such as the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill," she said.
The Bill seeks to recognise and promote teaching as a profession and contribute to improving the quality of teaching and learning in Jamaica, by regulating the entry and standing of teachers.
Added Williams: "We have taken the education ministry through the worst pandemic that we have known this century. There were massive efforts to ensure that our children remain connected to the education system, and for those who were not, we gave as many options as we could, and we have followed up to ensure that our children are in school and we will continue to do that.
"We have better information now than we did then. I'm very proud of the many improvements that we've been able to make at the ministry to serve our stakeholders," she argued.
Meanwhile, Williams advised that the ministry will be spending $2 billion on the Government's textbook rental scheme for secondary schools this year, a larger sum than in previous years.
Responding to Crawford's claim that between 20 and 60 per cent of students who need to rent textbooks may not have access to all of them in the upcoming school year, Williams said principals have not indicated any particular issues with the scheme.
She pointed out that students even had use of rental books during the pandemic.
"If anything, we are expanding the book rental this year. All of our high school students will have the English 1, 2 and 3 and for those at CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate), they will have them in electronic format, so we are not standing still, we are looking at all options, all avenues. There are a whole host of e-resources available to students. We utilise the providers who are in the system, and there are a few good providers who have been with us throughout the pandemic. We utilise them and will continue to do so," she stated.
The minister also noted that only a very small number of students fail to return books each year, and this will be a problem of the past when e-texts are introduced.