A transformed education sectorMonday, May 04, 2020
The following is a lightly edited version of the message deliver at Education Week Church Service 2020:
Education, defined in simple terms, is the process of facilitating learning or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. The right to education has been recognised globally by governments and the United Nations. In most regions, not dissimilar to the Jamaican context, education is compulsory up to a certain age. The wonderful, most glorious, compassionate Jamaica Teachers' Association, as is customary, rises to its feet to celebrate Education Week 2020 under the theme: 'Promoting digital transformation and positive values and attitudes…imperatives for redefining 21st century education'.
We commence the week of activities with a virtual church service. Then, on Tuesday, we will have our virtual Read Across Jamaica Day. On Wednesday, Teachers' Day will be celebrated, albeit in a different way. On Thursday, we will be executing a virtual Helen Stills Professional Development Day.
Alvin Toffler, an American writer, futurist and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies, including digital revolution and communication, with emphases on the effects on cultures worldwide, was a mighty long way ahead of his time. He posited that, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Today marks the beginning of Education Week 2020 and the Jamaica Teachers' Association is humbled to be participating and sharing with our stakeholders in what could be considered the most intriguing period in global education's historic existence. With a 24,000- strong membership, who could have thought that we would have been physically gathered in such small numbers? Indeed, COVID-19 has taught us some resounding lessons and it is now upon us to showcase to the world that we have taken notes and are at a state of mental and physical readiness to undertake the requisite adjustments with respect to digital revolution in the interest of nation-building. We therefore welcome all our members and friends who are privileged to be sharing with us in the physical space of the church, and everyone whom is engaged digitally.
We must never forget that all good things we enjoy today manifested from either conflicts or struggles. COVID-19 has opened up the floodgates for new and creative thinking. We should never allow our minds to return to a state of the old normal, but strive to embrace the “new normal”.
The Jamaica Teachers' Association has perennially included Education Week activities as imperatives to reinforce and propel the necessity for the development of the human capital which is expressly needed by our educational practitioners.
With the recent brain drain of teachers and the forced changes brought on by the novel coronavirus, educators have got to be mindful that educators are the primary contributors to the development of a progressive nation. It is indeed time-appropriate to salute our nation's educators for the tremendous job they do over the years, and we must bestow additional praises upon them for the way they admirably discharged their duties in the virtual space over the past six weeks.
We charge our educators to:
1) operate within the framework of true professionalism;
2) invest in digital devices that will assist you in becoming more efficient in practising your craft;
3) invest in your own professional development;
4) demand more of our governing bodies;
5) be mindful of the messages you send to the wider society; and
6) be supportive of stances taken by your union.
While we salute the efforts of our enthusiastic, conscientious, and supportive parents and other adults in society, it has not escaped our attention that many have missed the mark in recognising that it takes a village to raise a child. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we are calling on parents and our adult citizens to play their part in carrying out a positive values and attitude programme, especially as it relates to obeying the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.
Halt distance teaching
To our leaders of the land, we respectfully ask that we have open communication with the public to clear the ambiguities and unease among the stakeholders at all levels of the education sector. We crave the indulgence of our prime minister and the teams from the ministries of education and finance to work on a structured framework to digital transformation with an outlined budget and timeline. We urge the minister of education to issue a temporary break in distance teaching to accommodate astute planning designed to revamp the currently failing practices that have surreptitiously excluded a vast number of our children from gaining access to online lessons and has, in effect, plunged many of them into a chronic state of depression over the past few weeks.
We say to you the children that you are the future of our nation. Keep on believing that the current situation won't last forever. In the course of events, we are asking you to seize every opportunity to continue improving yourselves academically while keeping safe.
I was asked by your teachers and school leaders to express one critical thing to all the children across Jamaica, and I am carrying the message. They asked me to tell you children that they love you dearly and are anticipating that day when they can return to teach you face to face.
In the face of the unforeseen challenges, we implore all Jamaicans to play our part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.
Owen Speid is president of Jamaica Teachers' Association. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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