The new school term began in Jamaica on September 6, but face-to-face classes are on hold until high schools achieve herd immunity.
Over 40,000 eligible Jamaican children have received their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 since the country received that brand of vaccine in August. The government is inoculating children over the age of 12 to facilitate in-person classes this year.
Speaking at a recent townhall meeting with parents, Minister of Education, Fayval Williams said each high school will have to achieve a vaccination rate of 65 percent before they can begin face-to-face classes.
“While we continue to provide access to education for all our students, face-to-face engagement will only be possible if our students 12 years old and older are vaccinated. Students in secondary schools will therefore return to face-to-face once their school achieves 65% vaccination rate or higher,” said Williams.
“The modalities previously established will therefore continue until schools’ population data are assessed for the vaccination rate and permission given by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for face-to-face,” the minister added.
Over 60 percent of the country’s public school educators have already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But Minister Williams said that she wants all other school staff to take the shot to protect themselves and the children.
“Administrators, teachers and ancillary staff in the public education sector who will be working in the school environment with our early childhood/infant and primary-level children are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated. At this time, the vaccine is not available for our children who are less than 12 years old. As such, we have a collective responsibility to ourselves and our children to steadfastly continue to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols (handwashing and/or sanitisation, social distancing, and wearing of masks), with the added layer of protection afforded from being vaccinated,” the minister said.
During the week of September 20 and onwards, the Ministry says an assessment will be done with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to determine a feasible date for the start of face-to-face learning. For now, classes will be delivered online, and through local TV and radio stations.