New JTA head blasts Teaching Council
Newly installed president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Norman Allen, says his organisation will continue to resist any attempts by the Government to effect the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) bill in its current form.
In his maiden presidential address on Monday night, which lasted just over 45 minutes, Allen immediately ripped into the bill, which he said appeared to be a facade for the imposition of new taxes on teachers in order to supplement the budget and rob teachers of their rights.
"For our engagement tonight, I wish to start with the JTC bill. The Education Act of 1965 was not crafted by fools. Coming three years after Independence, it reflected the vision of a new Jamaica. The several amendments to 1982 were intended to keep the act current and relevant, which they have. There is, to my knowledge, nothing in the laws of Jamaica to say an act has limit to the number of times it can be amended," Allen said.
"Nothing is fundamentally wrong with the current Education Act and the regulations that amendments cannot fix. What is the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill structured and crafted to do, if not to in effect to bypass the act? It is my conclusion that the JTC bill has been crafted with a desire to reprimand and punish teachers; to rob them of their right to a fair hearing; to rob them of the opportunity to face their accusers and to leave them without security of tenure," said Allen.
The president said the recommendations made by the JTA for the removal of some elements of the bill which could enable the exploitation and criminalisation of teachers had not been considered, resulting in the organisation maintaining its stance against the bill.
"There is absolutely no need for the JTC bill. But if withdrawing it is going to bruise egos and rub persons the wrong way, then let it be fixed. The JTA has demonstrated a willingness, a desire towards fixing the JTC bill, but each time it is reported as being fixed, the draconian and irksome clauses are more deeply embedded," continued Allen. "It is our hope that recent discussions will result in the removal to one that is more palatable. I call on the honourable minister of education and his legal luminaries - let us employ the human side of enterprise; let us together fix the JTC bill in the interest of all Jamaica."
Meanwhile, the new JTA president said there had been no closure on the issue of licensing of teachers, particularly "on the question of who trains and certifies teachers", which could inevitably spell the loss of jobs for many trained teachers.
"A sizeable part of govern-ment budgetary expectation will be borne by teachers through the payment of licensing fees and training towards recertification. We are not too blind to see that any resistance to payment on the part of teachers could be met with non-renewal of licences," the president said.
"Taxing teachers behind the pretext of recertification for development is a problem. Taxing the already underpaid teachers through licensing is a problem," argued Allen. "Using licensing as a means of taking away security of tenure is a problem. Fixed term licensing of teachers is the intended means of putting all teachers on contract. If that is the intention of Government, then by all means be bold.
"At present, there is a reasonable attempt by the Ministry of Education to register teachers. The same information necessary for registration is necessary for licensing. Why then not continue using the process of registration if the hidden agenda is not for taxation and creation of vulnerability? Why have there not been any pronouncements as to what it will cost teachers to be licensed, and any mention of the mechanism that will be placed to keep reasonable people reasonable?" questioned Allen.