Lost in translation
Teachers funded by state to study Spanish to teach in primary schools struggle to find jobs
Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
MORE THAN 150 teachers who were trained to teach Spanish in primary schools are struggling to find employment as the Ministry of Education had failed to deliver on its promise to offer the subject at that level.
The training of the teachers to teach Spanish was funded through scholarships offered by the Ministry of Education.
The teachers were trained on the basis that they would serve for three years on bond in the public system, but five years after the scholarship started, the subject is yet to be included in the curriculum.
Of the 231 persons trained under the programme, only 76 of them have secured employment. But these persons are not specialising in Spanish.
"That, for me, is another misuse of funds," president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Clayton Hall, told The Gleaner. "Where we are located geographically, we are surrounded by millions of Spanish speakers and we continue to be in a monolinguistical frame of mind."
"We must now expose our children to a foreign language and it must be mandatory," Hall said.
NOT GIVING UP
The JTA president said his association would continue to lobby for the inclusion of Spanish as a curriculum item for primary schools.
"The situation highlights two significant problems. The first one is that we have trained these teachers, and after training them, we have not put policy in place to make use of the investment that we have put in the human capital," he said.
"Second, we have not facilitated the exposure of our children at the primary level to a second language and this must be addressed," he added.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told The Gleaner that the ministry is working to place the teachers in different programmes.
"Unfortunately, no positions were created in the primary schools to accommodate these teachers since that time. However, the ministry has been trying to place these teachers as vacancies become available," Thwaites said.
He added: "Over 50 of these teachers are employed in schools at the primary level but not in designated Spanish positions. They would, however, be able to utilise the training and infuse this in their general lessons."
He further stated that six of these teachers have been placed in designated Spanish positions since September and 20 have been placed in volunteer Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme projects since October.
SEARCHING FOR ALTERNATIVES
Thwaites said efforts to find suitable positions for the others would continue, but he was unable to give a timeline for their employment.
Thwaites did not say why the Spanish programme was not implemented at the primary-school level.
Andrew Holness, under whose watch as education minister the programme started, said he is disappointed it appears to have hit a wall.
"Jamaica's economic future lies in broadening its trade orders with Latin America and that requires that we have an adequate supply of persons who are articulate in Spanish, if not minimally conversant," he said.
"Trade is built on top of cultural and social links as well as economic interest. To promote cultural and social link, we must be able, as a nation, to surmount the language barrier," Holness said.