Tue | Nov 28, 2023

Educators getting short end of the stick

Published:Monday | May 30, 2022 | 12:32 AM


As educators we are constantly under society’s microscope, more so since the advent of COVID-19, which resulted in the unexpected closure of schools for two years.

Like most educators, I have had to dig deep into the ‘happy arsenal’ to ensure that I pursue a balance between my professional, personal and social selves. While I am able to maintain ‘happy’ in the latter two selves, the former continues to be elusive. It is not for lack of will or effort, but the odds are stacked against it by my employers: Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY).

My superiors refuse to listen to the voices of those who operate in the field. They do not consult, but merely sensitise, and are in no mood to broker any discussions. They say and we are expected to do. This trend leaves no room for engagement, but the field workers are expected to execute ‘their’ mandate. The most recent happened a few days ago when instructions were received regarding the administration of the grade-three diagnostic test. The bulletin stated that the students will be required to sit their diagnostic tests online. I cannot fathom the reasons for such a foolhardy decision. The students returned to the physical space on March 7, after two years of navigating a virtual space that was unpredictable, at best. We have been swimming against the tides in getting our charges to narrow the learning gaps in the shortest possible time.

Many teachers can testify to the invalidity of the test results that were secured while the students were online. Irrefutable evidence paints the picture of parents and older siblings manipulating the online assessments. Yet, the MOEY sees it fit to make this major announcement one week before the administration of a critical test for our nation’s eight- and -nine-year-old children. Sadly, not many schools possess the requisite facilities to undertake such an activity, and so the students may have to sit their diagnostic tests at home. Once again, the question of validity rears its head.

The education slice of the National Budget is one of gargantuan proportion, and many are of the impression that the results achieved are not consistent with the invested sums. Thus, the cries for performance-based pay for educators are getting louder by the second. Unfortunately, many are in the dark, deliberately or otherwise, regarding the state of the sector. As I type, we are at the end of May and schools are just now in receipt of the fourth tranche, which was due in April, to fund their daily activities, effect repairs, pay cooks and janitors, purchase stationery items and toiletries, etc. Our requests for furniture and additional infrastructure or upgrades fall on deaf ears and there are still undelivered supplemental textbooks for the almost ending Academic Year 2021- 2022.

I can add more fuel: the teachers who are unpaid for several months even though their documents are properly vetted and submitted on time; the poorly ventilated and overcrowded classrooms, with many unruly children who lack parental supervision and support, but whose daily presence is a threat to the existent of their peers and wider community. The various calls and referrals to the myriad of state agencies is a futile exercise.



George Headley Primary School