Jamaica Secures $30 Million from World Bank for STEM School and Enhanced Teaching Practices

Jamaica Secures $30 Million From World Bank For Stem School And Enhanced Teaching Practices

Jamaica’s government and the World Bank have entered into a significant agreement worth $30 million aimed at enhancing teaching practices, inclusivity, learning conditions, and decision-making processes within the country’s education system. The project intends to benefit approximately 150,000 secondary students, 6,000 teachers, school principals, Ministry of Education and Youth personnel, as well as education policymakers and practitioners.

One of the key aspects of the project is the establishment of a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) secondary school, which will cater to around 2,400 students. At least half of the beneficiaries will be girls. The STEM school aims to address existing gaps, particularly for vulnerable students, including boys, residing in underserved areas where schools are currently operating beyond capacity.

While acknowledging Jamaica’s progress in education, challenges such as completion rates, inequity, and low student performance persist in secondary education. The World Bank’s Country Director for Caribbean countries, Lilia Burunciuc, stated that the new project seeks to strengthen the Jamaican education system by improving access for disadvantaged students and enhancing educational outcomes.

The project will also focus on equipping teachers with effective instructional practices to deliver the existing curriculum and enhancing the use of assessments to support student learning. Special attention will be given to the development of digital and socio-emotional skills within the classroom.

Highlighting the government’s commitment to human capital development, Nigel Clarke, Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and the Public Service, emphasised the importance of equitable access to quality education for the country’s growth and development. Minister Clarke expressed satisfaction in partnering with the World Bank on this crucial project, which is expected to significantly improve education outcomes.

Furthermore, the project will facilitate the creation of an efficient information system to enhance the management of the education system. This system will enable the implementation of targeted early intervention strategies aimed at improving student retention, with a specific focus on secondary education.

The $30 million loan, provided by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was signed by Minister Nigel Clarke, Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams, and World Bank Country Director for Caribbean countries, Lilia Burunciuc. The collaboration between the Jamaican government and the World Bank underscores their joint commitment to addressing educational challenges and fostering an inclusive and high-quality education system in Jamaica.

Magnitude 5.6 Earthquake Rattles Jamaica, Felt Across the Caribbean

Jamaica experienced a magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Monday, causing tremors felt not only on the island but also in Haiti, the United States Minor Outlying Islands, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Cuba. While no serious injuries or fatalities have been reported thus far, some buildings have suffered damage, leading to the closure of schools in certain areas.

The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) reported that the earthquake originated at a depth of 17 kilometres (10.56 miles) around 10:57 am local time. This seismic event follows a magnitude 5.2 earthquake that occurred in September, heightening concerns among observers who note that strong earthquakes are rare in Jamaica.

Throughout the affected regions, employees in corporate areas evacuated their buildings and sought out safe zones until the earthquake subsided. Prime Minister Andrew Holness issued a statement urging citizens to remain calm, emphasising that no significant damage or loss of life has been reported. He also called for patience as damage assessments are conducted.

Jamaica promptly activated its earthquake protocol, with the primary challenge stemming from a series of electrical outages caused by damage to powerlines and infrastructure in certain regions. The nation is known for experiencing numerous minor earthquakes, averaging 200 per year. However, the recent back-to-back strong earthquakes have raised concerns among observers.

Notable seismic events in Jamaica’s history include the devastating Port Royal earthquake in 1692, which caused a portion of the town to sink into the sea. In 1907, the capital city of Kingston was struck by a major earthquake that claimed the lives of 1,000 people. Another significant event occurred in March 1957, predominantly affecting Western Jamaica.

Jamaica shares the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone with Haiti and the Dominican Republic, rendering all three nations vulnerable to seismic activity. The proximity of these countries within the same region underscores the need for robust disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of their populations.

National Epidemiologist Warns of Prolonged Dengue Outbreak in Jamaica

National Epidemiologist Warns Of Prolonged Dengue Outbreak In Jamaica

In a concerning update, National Epidemiologist Dr. Karen Webster-Kerr has revealed that Jamaica is expected to experience a persistent surge in dengue virus cases for the next few months. Dr. Webster-Kerr predicts that the country will record over 1,000 confirmed, suspected, and presumed cases of dengue each month until the first quarter of the following year. Furthermore, she warns that this number could potentially rise to at least 1,400 cases per month.

During an interview on Radio Jamaica’s Hotline, Dr. Webster-Kerr emphasised that the high number of cases is likely to continue until around March, after which the incidence should gradually decrease to a range of 500 to 600 cases per month. The situation is particularly alarming as the data for September alone shows 1,409 confirmed, suspected, and presumed dengue cases, with an additional 240 cases reported so far this month.

The Ministry of Health & Wellness has reported 434 confirmed cases of the disease as of Wednesday, based on approximately 2,107 suspected and presumed samples. Unfortunately, this outbreak has also resulted in seven dengue-related deaths, with five classified as suspected and two confirmed cases.

The authorities are working diligently to address the situation and implement necessary measures to control the spread of the virus. Dr. Webster-Kerr urges the public to remain vigilant and take preventive measures such as eliminating mosquito breeding sites and practising personal protection against mosquito bites.

The Ministry of Health & Wellness continues to monitor the situation closely and provide guidance to healthcare facilities and communities across the country. Efforts are being made to raise awareness about dengue prevention and ensure timely diagnosis and treatment for affected individuals.

As the dengue outbreak persists, it is crucial for the public to stay informed, cooperate with health authorities, and prioritise proactive measures to minimise the impact of the virus on individuals and communities in Jamaica.


Source: Radio Jamaica News

Jamaica and European Union Launch “Digital Jamaica” Program to Accelerate Digital Transformation

On October 10, the Government of Jamaica, in collaboration with the European Union (EU), unveiled the Digital Jamaica program, a €9.5 million initiative aimed at expanding access to and utilisation of information and communications technologies (ICT) to facilitate the country’s transition to a digital economy and society.

Implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Ministry of Education and Youth, and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Digital Jamaica aims to connect Jamaicans through high-speed internet, establish Wi-Fi networks in schools, and provide digital skills training for students and teachers. The program will also extend support to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in adopting technological solutions.

By leveraging digital tools, the program seeks to bridge the digital divide, equip young people with essential digital skills, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Senator Dr. the Hon. Dana Morris Dixon, Minister without Portfolio in the OPM with oversight for Skills and Digital Transformation, praised Digital Jamaica as a catalyst for change and development. She emphasised that the program’s objective is not only to revolutionise Jamaica’s technological landscape but also to empower citizens by improving access to information, promoting digital literacy, and stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship.

Jamaica and European Union Launch Digital Jamaica Program to Accelerate Digital Transformation (2)

Senator Morris Dixon highlighted the advantages of a digitally skilled population, which includes enhanced innovation, increased competitiveness on the global stage, and the attraction of more investors. She emphasised that digital empowerment is not a luxury but a necessity that bridges gaps and fosters inclusivity and equality.

Expressing gratitude to the EU for funding the initiative, Senator Morris Dixon characterised the program as a testament to the enduring partnership and collaborative spirit between nations.

Helena Konig, Deputy Secretary General for Economic and Global Affairs at the EU, emphasised that Digital Jamaica is the first concrete, grant-funded multi-sector program of support for Jamaica’s digital transformation agenda following the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will collaborate with the Ministry of Education and Youth to integrate Jamaica’s National ICT Competency Framework for Teachers into the curricula of all publicly funded teacher training institutions. This strategic focus on education is crucial for Jamaica’s goal of becoming a knowledge-based society with a digitally competent workforce.

Digital Jamaica will also facilitate collaboration between the OPM and the Ministry of Education and Youth to provide Wide Area Network (WAN) and Wi-Fi connectivity to over 1000 public schools, including children’s homes, reducing social vulnerability to the digital divide, especially among students in unserved and underserved areas.

Sancia Bennett Templer, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, disclosed that €1.7 million of the program’s budget will be allocated to the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) to support the active participation of MSMEs in the digital transition. Given that MSMEs account for 60 to 70 percent of jobs in Jamaica, involving them in digital transitioning programs presents significant opportunities for widespread adoption of digital technologies, improving transactions, efficient goods delivery, access to financial services, and customer engagement.

To facilitate MSMEs’ digital transformation, the Ministry will provide training for the JBDC and business support services providers, enabling them to offer digital transformation training to MSMEs across the island.

Hon. Fayval Williams, Minister of Education and Youth, welcomed the Digital Jamaica program, recognising its alignment with the government’s efforts to enable citizens to develop new capabilities, ranging from basic digital literacy to advanced competencies in data science and coding. The program holds potential benefits for in-service teachers, trainee teachers, and aspiring educators, expanding career prospects for students in the technology field.

Digital Jamaica, the first bilateral EU Global Gateway Flagship Program in the Caribbean, aligns with the EU’s Global Gateway strategy, which aims to strengthen digital, energy, and transport sectors, as well as health, education, and research systems worldwide.