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In Jamaica, secondary school students have the legal right to elect representatives to school boards and vote in decisions. New research by Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) reveals that many school boards comply with the law. 71% of student representatives voted freely in school board decisions. 95% reported that they could participate freely and without feeling pressured or intimated. And 92% of student representatives had access to documents being discussed. At the same time, 29% faced restrictions on their right to vote due to concerning, and potentially unlawful restrictions.

The Education Regulations (1980) explicitly protects children’s right to participate in decision-making in public secondary schools through an elected student representative, who represents the collective student body on the school board. Similarly, Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Jamaica is party to, imposes a duty on the government to allow for expression and consideration of the views of children in accordance with their age and maturity. This is further supplemented in our Child Care and Protection Act, in alignment with the “best interests of the child”.

JFJ, in partnership with the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) surveyed student representatives across Jamaica who would have been appointed to their school board during the 2016-2017 school year, to ascertain the extent and quality of their involvement. An analysis of our data shows compliance and improvement. However, there are still areas which require attention. For example, some student representatives were restricted from voting on matters considered “delicate” or not relevant to students. Others were instructed not to attend or vote. Notwithstanding this, the overall quality of participation was rated at 77% good and 21% satisfactory.

Download the full report, “The Right to Participate: Student Participation on School Boards”,  from our document library.