Winston Smith - Back to school

Back to School Message from JTA President 2021-2022 for Circulation

Publication Date: 
Monday, September 6, 2021

To the Jamaican teaching fraternity, especially our Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) members, I greet you well.  Today, let us give thanks to our Creator for His grace and mercies towards us as we navigate these difficult times. Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the way we have been able to execute our duties as partners in nation building.  

Click to LISTEN to recorded message Audio Clip

My Colleague Teachers, I salute you for the tenacity that you have displayed over the last academic year. Despite the learning, social and economic gaps caused by the pandemic, our education sector and the business of education has remained our central focus during the period.  While we were not able to reach all of our students, we can be assured that we did our best under the circumstances. Kudos to you for that.

As we seek to return to the online space for the resumption of classes, I am confident that the experiences gained over the past 16-18 months will be a good launching pad for the delivery of education during this academic year. I encourage you as you reflect and plan for how best to connect with our students and each other to make the lessons that we have learned be your guide.  As you embrace your particular context while making the best use of your available resources, I also ask that you make time to bring balance to your personal lives. We at the JTA recognize that you would have had to grapple with all of the changes brought on by the Pandemic. Therefore, we ask that you support each other in as many ways as you can, personally and professionally. One cannot pour from an empty cup. We remain aware that we must be prepared and committed to being a part of closing significant learning, social and emotional gaps amongst our students.

In addition, we are hopeful that the Government of Jamaica and by extension the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information will be guided by the discussions between them and us at the JTA. I also endorse for the Ministry’s guidance the recently released CAPRI report, Time Out, which recommends among others that the Ministry:

“14. Continue[s] to upskill and enhance teachers’ professional development

15. Provide[s] more and better material support for teachers

16. Provide[s] more and better psychosocial support for teachers.”

I know that, you, our hardworking teachers, are expecting of them to follow through on the promise to provide adequate laptops for all teachers, at all levels of the education sector.  Indeed, it is of fundamental importance that the relevant parties recognize that a laptop is not a luxury, but a basic and necessary tool to execute the business of educating our children in this era of integrating ICT into teaching, learning and assessment. Further to this, we await the expansion of the commissioning of the high speed Internet system beyond the pilot phase to all schools in Jamaica, particularly our most vulnerable in deep rural communities.  This is critical when framed by the necessity of our school year beginning in the online mode, with the distinct possibility of this being so for some time to come.  We also stand ready to partner with the Ministry in offering the emotional support that so many are in need of at this time.

Colleagues, we know that the issue of vaccination is a personal one at this stage, however, we continue to encourage all teachers to avail themselves of the information provided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Our best advice in order to minimize the impact of the virus is to be vaccinated and practice all the existing protocols. Likewise, I implore you to continue to encourage the parents with whom you interact, to educate themselves on the value of being vaccinated as well their children over the age of 12. This gives us the best option to return to in-person schooling in a shorter time.

However, please be mindful that you should not be forced, coerced or threatened by anyone to be vaccinated as it is not mandatory, and as such, the JTA stands resolutely in support of your choice on the grounds of medical and or religious reasons.

Colleagues, as it relates to the reopening of schools on Monday, September 6, 2021, I am expecting that all teachers will remain at home as per the directives of our Prime Minister on the days so determined. Consequently, you are reminded that you will execute your duties to the best of your abilities online where possible. On Wednesday, September 8, 2021, those who may choose to work from your respective institutions to access Internet, as well as other materials for teaching, please do so observing all protocols. We here thank our principals, the management, the technical and support teams in our schools for the creativity, ingenuity and the innovations employed to facilitate the reopening of schools across Jamaica.

The JTA wishes all of our members from the Early Childhood to the Tertiary level and other stakeholders all the best as we support each other through this challenging time.

Truly, the best way of Bridging the Digital and Social Divide; to Transform Education for Economic Growth and Sustainable Development, is through quality education for all.

My Colleague Teachers, let us continue to, ‘Unite and Serve”.

Your humble servant,

Winston R. Smith

JTA President

2021-22

 

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