Sun | Mar 29, 2020

More teachers heading off to greener pastures – JTA’s Speid

Published:Thursday | January 23, 2020 | 12:07 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Owen Speid
Owen Speid

WESTERN BUREAU:

The local education sector is expected to take another hit from the lure of so-called greener pasture as, according to Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President Owen Speid, more teachers are poised to leave the island for overseas jobs by this month-end.

“There is a spread of the shortage of teachers across the island, and I have information that we’ll be losing some more by the end of this month,” Speid told The Gleaner after giving the keynote address at last Thursday’s installation ceremony for the past students’ association of Anchovy High School, St James.

“I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but it is the reality out there, and something has to be done to stem the flow of teachers who are leaving,” added Speid.

Speid said the migration of teachers has reached chronic proportions and could result in havoc in education with no identifiable solution to address the situation.

“The teacher migration issue is getting to the stage where we could call it chronic, as teachers are leaving each week. Over the holiday period, a prominent high school principal called me and said he got news that he would be losing three of his teachers, and if you lose three teachers in the high school system, it could wreak havoc on a classroom block,” said Speid.

In recent years, low salaries and lack of proper support systems have been cited among the main reasons teachers leave the local school system and head overseas. In 2016, this phenomenon was identified as a major reason for the low mathematics scores in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

During the JTA’s half-yearly meeting in Montego Bay last November, Speid lashed former education ministers Ronald Thwaites and Ruel Reid for advocating policies that triggered a teachers exodus from the classroom. Those policies included the reduction of tutors seeking training at teachers’ colleges, which was attributed to Thwaites; and the opposition to school administrators’ collection of auxiliary fees, which was blamed on Reid.

Speid went on to state that if the Government hopes to stem the migration of teachers, immediate steps must be taken to improve their working conditions and provide better salaries.

“Jamaica cannot match other countries in terms of salaries, but I believe our Government can look at reclassification of teachers’ salaries and bring them up to market value,” stated Speid. “The Government of Jamaica must also look at how they can improve the working conditions and provide the resources that the teachers need.”