AMID PLANS by the Ministry of Education to install air-conditioning units [ACs] in 30 schools to combat rising temperatures and reducing heat stress among students, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association [JTA] is calling for a review of how schools are funded for infrastructural work to be done.
JTA President Leighton Johnson made the call during a media interview on Tuesday, during which he noted that teachers and school administrators often have to purchase much-needed equipment for students out of their own pockets.
“It is nothing new for a teacher to take money out of his or her meagre salary to purchase fans or other well-needed material resources and equipment to function in the schools. We are requiring the Ministry of Education to look at the various plants [school sites] to see how it is that they can now fast-track improving on these schools, if they can get the building officers to work in collaboration with the school administrators to create additional ventilation spaces within the schools, and of course to increase the budgetary allocation for school maintenance so our administrators can implement fans and ACs where necessary,” said Johnson.
“It goes back to how education is funded. If our schools are properly funded to address the needs of the schools within the context [of each institution], then I am certain our administrators who have been entrusted with a duty of care and who have a responsibility over how the monies are expended will exercise responsibility in ensuring that these monies are expended correctly,” Johnson added.
A similar call was made in June 2022 by then-JTA President Winston Smith, who appealed to corporate Jamaica, the Ministry of Education and other members of high society to invest in structural improvements for schools across the country.
The appeal has become more relevant in recent times with concerns by school administrators that poor ventilation and lack of adequate cooling equipment in classrooms may put students at risk of heat stress and impact their learning ability. That concern comes at a time when global temperatures reached a record 17.18 degrees Celsius (62.9 degrees Fahrenheit) on July 4 this year.
On the matter of cooling equipment for classrooms, Johnson said that consideration must be given for the fact that Jamaica’s tropical climate plays a role in the effectiveness of students’ ability to learn.
“It goes back to the whole matter of the infrastructure, how schools were built, how they are maintained, and what is needed to get our schools modernised. We are a tropical island, and of course we are currently experiencing a change in our climatic conditions, and this has implications for all of us,” said Johnson.
“If fans are to be procured, I guarantee the principals will implement or install fans, and if ACs are needed, principals will install ACs. It is a new thinking that needs to be adopted at this time in order for our employers to understand that, in a 21st century context, there has to be that deliberate attempt in looking at how our schools are funded,” the JTA boss said.