Convenor of lobby group Hear The Children’s Cry, Betty Ann Blaine is making a plea to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, to use money from the reallocation of funds for the COVID-19 marketing campaign, for education.
According to Blaine, education will be in a crisis after the pandemic, which necessitates quick action to stem the problem facing the island’s children.
“I just want to encourage the Prime Minister, as he is rethinking this, to take some of that money, even if it’s, I don’t know, five per cent, 10 per cent and put that towards education.
“In other words, ensuring that every single Jamaican child of school age, particularly the primary and secondary school age gets the devices they need and the connectivity they need,” Blaine said.
Last Friday, Holness indicated that Cabinet will rethink the massive $422 million spend that was planned to educate Jamaicans about the COVID-19 vaccine and the reason to take it.
There was a public outcry after the announcement was made last month and Holness said this helped in the decision, although there will still be a reduced COVID-19 vaccination marketing campaign.
According to Holness, Cabinet will review that $422 million budget and reallocate the funds to other areas of the society. He said the reallocation would be announced shortly.
Blaine’s appeal, against that background, is in light of Jamaica’s education system closing last March after the first case of COVID-19 was reported on the island.
Online classes started in October, with the usual face-to-face classes beginning in limited schools at the start of the school term in January. With the online classes, however, there have been problems, with many parents not being able to afford either the devices or data for the Internet.
“Let me just say this, when this COVID-19 pandemic is over, and it will be over, we are going to be faced with an educational crisis of immense proportions if we don’t do something now to ensure that children, particularly those that have not had any formal education for almost one year, that we bring them into the system. This is a serious problem.
“I just want to add that everything right now is connected. This is a solution for the spread of COVID as well because if you can keep these children indoors and the safest place is in your homes, we know, then that’s a way to also curtail the spread,” Blaine said.