Letter of the Day | Stretching our teachers thin
THE EDITOR, Sir:
While I am in no position to attribute the alarming rate at which our teachers are collapsing and dying on and off the job to mounting stress levels, it is unfortunate and regrettable that Jamaican teachers are having to carry out excessive workloads in their daily operations in an effort to educate the nation.
We in the teaching fraternity are all aware that this particular job has always been stressful.
Besides having oversize classes, less-than-acceptable customer service at the ministry's regional offices, less-than-supportive parents, little or no resources with which to work, poor infrastructure, we are faced with the mammoth task of having to raise funds to maintain the facility and provide impetus for the programmes offered by these public schools.
The demands on local teachers are ever increasing, and we must strive to get the best results possible from our charges. It is not prudent, however, to ask our teachers in the mainstream public schools to secure impressive results out of children with learning disabilities, since we know that in many other jurisdictions, there are special facilities provided for them so they can be ably assisted by specialist teachers.
It is only after those children are placed in these facilities that the figures for mainstream students are computed. I say unreservedly that the literacy rate published annually for our public schools is grossly underestimated simply because there are many students in those numbers who struggle with learning disabilities and should not be in the mainstream public schools, but instead in special facilities.
Quite often, we hear reference being made to paying teachers by performance. But isn't the performance of students tied directly or indirectly to the performance of parents, the performance of the Ministry of Education, and the performance of the students themselves?
Who takes responsibility when class sizes of more than 50 students to a single teacher still exist? Who takes responsibility when primary schools' classrooms are still being partitioned in some cases by thin, emaciated blackboards? Surely, this contributes significantly to high levels of noise and distraction.
When one considers that a primary school gets a paltry $50,000 per year for its maintenance grant, who takes responsibility for the poor lighting in classrooms that frequently comes about when bulbs malfunction or go out?
A huge number of our members have reached frustration levels brought on by the long hours of overtime - sometimes all-nighters - that they must spend marking books, marking School- Based Assessments, writing extensive daily lesson plans, leaving their classes to act as nurses for sick children in the primary schools in particular, and doing daily chores such as fundraising efforts to keep school doors open, while dealing with ever-increasing paperwork.
It is even more depressing to our members that there is sometimes no appreciation or remuneration for their effort. It is time for those responsible to take a look fundamental flaws in our education system or we will continue to lose some of our best practitioners.