The Ministry of Education has endorsed the second staging of the annual Education Support Staff Achievement (ESSA) awards, which seeks to recognise the contributions of non-academic staff at primary schools across the island. An initiative of the Kingston Bookshop (KB), the competition aims to highlight the input of a wide cross section of employees in the school system, including clerks, bursars, librarians, ancillary staff, secretaries, canteen operators, grounds men, nurses and traffic wardens. Speaking at the media launch, held at the Ministry of Education’s Heroes Circle offices on February 1, Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, said the initiative helps to highlight the crucial role that non-academic staff plays in the education system. “One of the assumptions that this gesture by the Kingston Bookshop is questioning, is the traditional hierarchy of roles in the society generally, and the schools particularly, which has a much greater significance than many of us appreciate. Traditionally, it was those who had the titles, and who were in the highest positions, and had the authority, who were considered to be the greatest,” the Minister said. Rev. Thwaites argued that the process of educating the nation’s children will not be as effective, “unless we recognise the crucial role that is played by everybody in the system.” For his part, Custos of Kingston and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of KB, Steadman Fuller, said the main objective of the ESSA awards is to bring to national attention the fact that each individual in the education system has a job to do, and if done well, will ensure that the system is kept effective and productive. “Throughout my entire school career – infant to tertiary – non-teaching staff has played a role in my life and the life of the institutions with which I have been associated,” he said. The Custos pointed out that while the competition focussed on secondary schools last year, this year it will consider staff at the primary level. “We thought it was important to extend the programme to include an additional set of support staff in the employ of approximately 250 primary schools throughout Jamaica,” Mr. Fuller informed. He pointed out that prizes valued at over $1 million will be awarded this year. “We will have three county champion schools (Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey), together with three county champion individuals,” he said. Mr. Fuller also informed that while this year there will be no National School or National Individual champion, there will be three runner-up county schools and three runner-up county individuals. Prizes include: books and other support worth up to $200,000 for the libraries of the three champion schools; second place schools will receive books valued at $75,000. The three champion individuals will be awarded an investment certificate for $100, 000 each; certificates signed by the Minister of Education and the KB’s CEO; and mobile phones and phone credit courtesy of Digicel Jamaica. Second place finishers will be awarded investment certificates for $50,000 each; certificates signed by the Minister of Education and the KB’s CEO; and mobile phones and phone credit courtesy of Digicel Jamaica. Criteria for the award include: minimum three years on the job; level of performance in the specific post; any initiative taken/suggested resulting in increased efficiency, cost cutting and overall improvement on the job; involvement in other areas of school life; level of engagement/interaction with the students and teachers; and willingness to go the extra mile. Nominations of no more than 150 words should be directed by mail to: Kingston Bookshop ESSA Awards Competition, 80 King Street, Kingston CSO or by email to: [email protected] or via KB’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/kingstonbookshop or submit to any of the six Ministry of Education’s regional offices. Nominations for this year’s competition will be open on Monday, February 4 and closed on Friday, April 12. Winners will be announced during an awards function on Friday, May 10 during Education Week.