Religious snub - RE teacher says principals are not employing them
Claims that Jamaica is facing a shortage of religious education (RE) teachers have been challenged by one person trained to teach the subject.
Nadine Chambers argues that it is the principals who are refusing to employ specialists to teach the subject.
According to Chambers, since graduating from Shortwood Teachers' College in 2012 as a specialist religious education teacher, she has been unable to secure a job in that area. And it is the same for others trained with her.
"There is a great refusal to employ those of us who were trained in this field. Most principals do not see the need for the subject to be taught in high school," said Chambers, who has a degree and a diploma in religious education.
As a religious education specialist, Chambers said she believes the advertisements which usually run in the newspapers looking for teachers for this subject are done to satisfy protocol, as the practice is to use teachers who teach other subjects to teach RE.
"Teachers usually say as long as you are a teacher you can teach anything. They may have a point, but they would not be effective in an area they weren't trained for. Imagine I am a butcher and I take a job as a tailor," argued Chambers, who is employed as a basic school teacher.
She said persons are refusing to see the importance of RE and the role it plays in eliminating some of the social ills in society, especially as it relates to young people.
"We have spent so much money to be trained for three years. We are still struggling to pay off student loan. I believe this is atrocious to us as RE teachers," declared Chambers.
But president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) and principal of Church Teachers' College, Dr Garth Anderson, who had raised the issue of a shortage of RE teachers during a Gleaner Editors' Forum in September, last week said while he is not discounting what Chambers has alleged, the problem is a compound one.
"One of the issues we have is that in the teacher training institutions we are seeing fewer and fewer persons coming in to be trained for religious education at the two colleges that train RE teachers for secondary schools in Jamaica, Church Teachers' College and Shortwood Teachers' College," Anderson told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I know that Shortwood has taken the position that it wants to drop religious education. We at Church Teachers' College are considering that too. Because you have these personnel on your staff as lecturers but you are just not having the students to come in to do it," added Anderson.
He said his institution has started to offer scholarships for persons who want to be trained to teach RE.
"We literally have to go out, handpicking and encouraging students to go in. I'm not sure we have six specialists in the year one group coming in that area now. We are not getting people to come in to do that so it is a crisis for me because it has an important role to play," said Anderson.
The JTA head added that over the years the number of persons he would see coming in to be trained to teach RE has dropped significantly with a possible reason being that some schools are not offering RE at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate level.
"It is critical that our students are exposed to that kind of core values and principles that run through different religious beliefs and religion. Unfortunately, it is not happening as widely as it should," said Anderson.