McNamee on a mission to change the face of education
JTA president-elect candidate wants Gov’t to include teachers in decision-making process
As members of the teaching profession continue to underscore the importance of strong representation on their behalf, principal of the Broadleaf Primary and Infant School in Manchester and candidate in the Jamaica Teacher’s Association (JTA) 2021-2022 presidential race, Eaton McNamee, is of the view that the education ministry has lost touch with those crucial to its functioning.
McNamee said the working environment and salary of teachers are below par and remain causes for the continuous migration of teachers.
“We have not yet developed the political will to put into education what is necessary. We have to start at the early childhood level. It cannot be that at the early childhood level we suffer, at the primary level we get a little money and then at the high school level you want to compensate for what was lacking at the [previous] levels,” McNamee said.
He added that the education sector has yet to find its footing to properly operate according to the needs of those involved during the ongoing pandemic
“COVID-response teaching is what we applied because we have not yet mastered online teaching and we are nowhere there. The meagre request we have made is to be given the tools to work with. You cannot send us home in the online environment with absolutely nothing to work with. My research tells me that only approximately 10 per cent of teachers have gotten laptops from their schools,” he said.
As a result of the woefully inadequate resources available, McNamee said teachers have to utilise personal resources and seek sponsorship, so the students do not suffer.
According to the JTA presidential aspirant, the 2004 Task Force report states that the education sector should be receiving $250 billion to fund the budget. However, less than half of that amount is allocated annually.
“This is 2021 and it is $117 billion dollars allocated, so you see the disparity. We are nowhere where we ought to be and we can understand the impact of COVID-19, but it’s time we put a team together to see how we spread that money across the sector. It can’t be business as usual, we are now in the digital era, we will never get back to pre-COVID stage, so we have to think with the realities of what we are faced with.”
McNamee told The Gleaner that among his goals, if elected, will be the lobbying for salary increases according to the qualification and years of service to avoid brain drain among teachers; a review of the benefits for retired teachers, and a restructuring of the physical environment to make it more conducive for learning.
Having sought sponsorship from bauxite company Jamalco for the erection of four new classrooms, an office space and a library at the school he heads, McNamee said his plan is to encourage more private sector/public sector partnerships if elected to office.
“The education ministry, in my estimation, has never really been in touch with education in Jamaica. They tend to make plans for the sector without the main stakeholders’ involvement, which are the teachers. You cannot plan for us without us. We are the ones on the ground. You need to include us at the policy-making [level] and that is where my advocacy will lead.”
McNamee, who has served the JTA at the district association and national levels, and is the chairman of the Professional Advancement and Teacher Welfare Committee, believes he is the candidate that can provide proactive leadership.
“My experience across the board, advocating for teachers and serving in different capacities would have qualified me for such a time as this. My main mission is to advocate for the benefit of teachers. We have a profession that offers so much to the country, but at the end of the day, we are not treated, remunerated as we ought to. Teaching is not attractive and my mission is to change the face of education and the face of teaching.”
McNamee added: “I don’t believe that I should be asking you, my colleagues, to elect me. If it is that I have not done anything within my immediate environment to demonstrate to you that I am indeed the ideal candidate, I want you to join me and let us change the face of education together. We need that voice, that advocacy, that fearless one who is not afraid to lead any charge that the teachers would want us to lead.”