Fri | May 29, 2020

Letter of the Day | No apartheid for teachers

Published:Saturday | August 24, 2019 | 12:00 AM


Let us just call a spade a spade. The Government is marginalising our ­teachers. Apparently, if you are not in the discipline of maths or the sciences, you are mediocre just because your subject area is not in high demand, according to Ronald Thwaites on Nationwide News Network. He claimed that all teachers, good, bad and mediocre (inclusive of those not in demand), are being paid the same, which quite frankly should not be the case.

Quite frankly, his rhetoric is nothing short of being biased and discriminatory to the ­teachers of other disciplines. But my question is, were the teachers of maths and the sciences not already awarded incentives by way of full scholarships?

In 2016, the ministry announced an incentive programme in the form of scholarships for teachers of maths and the sciences. The estimated cost was $412 million in the first year of implementation and a total of $1.2 billion to complete training the first batch of pre-service and in-service teachers.

Testament to this announcement, the ministry then noted that it successfully awarded 440 scholarships, valued at $330 million, for the 2017-18 academic year; and two popular institutions that participated in this initiative are The Mico University College and Shortwood Teachers’ College. Further, in 2018, National Mathematics Coordinator Dr Tamika Benjamin says discussions are under way towards increasing the number of scholarships offered to student teachers who are pursuing science majors at the tertiary level. And now, in 2019, Thwaites is seeking even more benefits. But to what end?

Already in the schools there is a tug of war among the various subjects. The current trend, at least where I worked and based on my friends’ accounts at other schools, students choose to attend the classes considered important, while abandoning all else. Prime example: My students have often said, “Sir, I can’t come to class today because I have a math fest.” Or, “Sir, I can’t come to class today because I am doing my labs.” Certainly, I allow them at times. However, I have seen waves of students going to math fests and other activities on and off campus at times outside of the scheduled maths class time.


Frankly speaking, with this new incentive, they are adding insult to injury and further cementing the belief that other subjects are inferior. This personally hits home because as a teacher of foreign languages, already there are students and parents alike who do not see the relevance of the subjects. In fact, the same can be said for religious education, social studies, drama, visual arts, physical ­education and a few more.

Why the shade – discriminating against other disciplines and ­teachers? We are already losing teachers to France, China and other Asian countries, the United States, and some Latin American ­countries. But I am not seeing any incentives put out for us. Should this be ­interpreted as our being irrelevant?

Furthermore, even with the incentives being allotted to ­teachers of maths and the sciences, they are still leaving. Although the scholarships, for example, bonded them, there are presumed ­recruiters who buy out these bonds, as stated by Thwaites earlier this year.

Opposition and Government, you need to take another look at our teachers, re-evaluate your methods and acknowledge our plight. We want smaller classroom sizes and other improved ­amenities. Do not marginalise our teachers lest you lose far more.


Writer, motivational speaker