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Reports Part of series: Education & Covid-19: BERA Small Grants Fund research reports

Access to education in a time of pan(dem)ic in Jamaica: Rural and urban primary schools’ experience

As the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear, on 14 March 2020 the Jamaican government moved teaching and learning online and primary schools remained closed for the remainder of the school year. As elsewhere, these closures exposed and heightened the existing challenges faced by students, particularly those from rural and marginalised communities. In particular, the rapid move to online learning raised inclusivity issues for students with limited or no access to online platforms, smart devices or television through which scheduled educational programmes were delivered.

This report sets out the findings of an investigation into how Covid-19 impacted access to continued education in urban and rural primary schools in Jamaica, and the extent to which state interventions successfully facilitated access to education, across March–July and September–November 2020. With data drawn from surveys of and interviews with principals, teachers and parents, it highlights disparities in internet access between rural and urban communities, the differential impacts of school closures on children of different ages, and the potential benefits of instituting a blended approach to teaching and learning to facilitate social equality and inclusive access to education.

The research reported on in this publication is one of a number of projects supported by BERA’s Small Grants Fund for investigations into how education was impacted by and responded to Covid-19. For other reports in the series and more about the Small Grants Fund, click here.  

Report summary

This document reports the activities and findings of a project, funded by BERA’s small grants fund for research into the impact of Covid-19, that explored students’ experiences of accessing education in rural and urban primary (K-6) schools in Jamaica during the pandemic.

This research explored the following three questions.

  1. To what extent has Covid-19 impacted access to continued education in the primary  schools under investigation?
  2. How have state interventions facilitated continued education during the Covid-19 crisis?
  3. To what extent did the findings of the project’s second, qualitative phase converge with those of its first, quantitative phase?

Sequential mixed-methods design was used for data collection and analysis, with participants selected using purposeful sampling. All ethical considerations were engaged with for this research.

A disparity was found between students in rural and urban communities in terms of their ability to access online education, due to various challenges related to technology, including the affordability of data and devices.


Profile picture of Olivene Burke
Olivene Burke, Dr

Executive Director at The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

Dr Olivene Burke is the Executive Director of the Mona Social Services, UWI, Jamaica since 2011. She has combined her academic work to her passion for marginalized community development and utilized her skills as a lecturer in Transformational...

Profile picture of Vanessa Ellis Colley
Vanessa Ellis Colley, Dr

Student at University of Saskatchewan

Vanessa Ellis Colley has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Saskatchewan. She received the Teacher Doctoral Fellowship and Graduate Teaching Fellow Scholarship from the University of Saskatchewan. Her research interests...

Tenneisha Nelson, Dr

University of Saskatchewan

Tenneisha Nelson holds a PhD in Educational Administration from the University of Saskatchewan. Her areas of research are leadership theory and practice, school leadership and the principalship, rural education, school improvement and change...