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Ena Barclay - At the top of her class
published: Tuesday | August 14, 2007

Petrina Francis, Staff Reporter

Ena Barclay, president-elect of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, talks with The Gleaner in her office at Lyssons Primary School, St. Thomas. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

When Ena Barclay, incoming president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), was asked by her colleagues in 1999 to accept nomination for the position of president-elect for the 22,000-member teacher union, she declined.

"Because I had not yet gone to the University of the West Indies (UWI) and I didn't believe that someone should accept that position unless you could really command the authority," Mrs. Barclay, principal of Lyssons Primary, St. Thomas, tells The Gleaner.

Ever since she joined the teaching profession 35 years ago, Mrs. Barclay became a member of the JTA.

She has been the JTA's contact teacher at Lyssons Primary for many years. She served as district secretary, sports coordinator for the district and study circle convenor (a focus group within the JTA, which informs teachers about the happenings of the association). Mrs. Barclay was selected as study circle trainer for the parish of St. Thomas, then progressed to district president, where she worked her way up to parish president.

The veteran educator was also study circle coordinator at the national level and served on the central executive, general council and various committees within the JTA.


Born in Westmoreland, Mrs. Barclay is a graduate of The Manning's School, Shortwood Teachers' College, G.C. Foster College, Jamaica School of Music and the University of the West Indies, where she earned a certificate in management and supervision and a BEd in education administration. She also completed a diploma in school management from Mount St. Vincent University, Canada.

Her colleagues thought this was a natural progression and so last year when she was asked again to accept nomination for the position of president-elect, she agreed.

"Last year, I reached the point where they (my colleagues) didn't want any more excuses because I had now finished university and was now principal," she said.

"So I accepted to run last year and as they say, the rest is history."

Mrs. Barclay wanted to become a nurse but an experience in a hospital turned her off that profession, so she turned to teaching where she has educated thousands of children at the primary level. She, however, declined to share the experience which changed her mind about nursing.

"I came to Lyssons 31 years ago, did two years of pre-trained teaching then went to Shortwood, did internship at Lyssons, then went to Trinityville Secondary where I did two years then I came back to Lyssons," Mrs. Barclay told The Gleaner.

"Once I started teaching, I didn't want to leave. So teaching has been my first and only job."

Physical education teacher

For many years, Mrs. Barclay was a physical education teacher and entered the classroom full time in 1995. On the playing field, she taught boys and girls several sports, including netball, cricket and athletics.

But why physical education? "I grew up on a farm and I had everything - the cow, the donkey, the mule - so I was very active and participated in every sport in high school, so I just went into that area," she said.

Mrs. Barclay added: "I am a country girl, I am accustomed to being free. I am from a large family and we used to have the boys playing against the girls and I was very active doing all the things that the boys did."

Growing up in Westmoreland, Mrs. Barclay felt a little restricted in doing the things a young woman wanted to do.

So when she got the opportunity to attend Shortwood Teachers' College, she was delighted. She said she ended up in St. Thomas because at the time, Shortwood sent its interns to St. Mary, St. Thomas, Portland, among other parishes, and she was placed in St. Thomas, where she has resided since her placement.

"But they did me a big favour when they placed mehere because I was placed in a good school which at that time was pretty new and leadership was excellent and continues to be up to this day.

Mrs. Barclay, who is from a family of 13 children, has received various awards and scholarships.

She has received the RC Tavares Award for service to education, WBC Ben Hawthorne Award from the JTA for service to the nation and was one of the first recipients of the Prime Minister's Medal of Appreciation for contribution to education.

Mrs. Barclay also received the Wesley Powell scholarship from the JTA and a scholarship from the Ministry of Education and Youth.

Urges full support

And as she takes office next week, she has urged education stakeholders to give her full support.

"I know the teachers have great expectations but I only hope they will put out so we can really do our best for the children," she said.

"We need everybody to give 100 per cent support. No education system can go forward without the support of the parents ...," Mrs. Barclay added.

Mother of two daughters, Shelly-Ann and Celia, the 52-year-old educator was appointed principal at Lyssons in 2003.

And what is the veteran educator's view on education?

"I think our children are doing very well with the limited resources that we operate with. Once children leave here and go abroad, we find that they are way ahead and so they excel when they get the added facilities and they make use of the opportunity," she said.

"Our teachers are second to none. They work hard and they have the children at heart," she said.

"We are poised for development, it is going to take a lot of money but I don't know if the Government has the will to commit the necessary finances to it. But if that happens, we should move a far way," she said.

Mrs. Barclay said greater focus should be placed on literacy. She also suggested that the teachers' colleges should target more literacy specialists.

"It is notthat teachers are not teaching properly but we need to start from the basic school level," she said.

Eighth female president

On August 20, Mrs. Barclay will be installed as the 40th president of the JTA and the eighth female president of the association. And she says she has several plans for the organisation.

Violence has been rampant in schools and as such, Mrs. Barclay says she will be establishing a unit to assist traumatised teachers.

"As an association, I think we need to render assistance to our teachers and so I would like to have a counselling unit set up within the JTA to respond to those types of needs," she said.

Mrs. Barclay also intends to create a handbook that young teachers going into the profession can use as a guide and which would also serve as a refresher for those who are already in it.

Like many other presidents, she will seek to lobby the Government for improvement of conditions for teachers and will continue with the professional development courses, conferences, among other things.

Like most things in life, Mrs. Barclay said her tenure as president will be challenging, but she noted that she will deal with the challenges as they come.

"We have to keep the Ministry of Education and Youth on its toes. At this point in time, we need primary school spaces, and we have to monitor that," she said.

The Jamaica Labour Party says it will abolish cost-sharing if it should form the next government. Mrs. Barclay said while this is a good idea, the party needs to know how it is going to be funded. "Because it is going to take a lot for that to happen," she said.

When not working, Mrs. Barclay enjoys gardening.

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