Wed | Oct 4, 2023

HEART out of touch?

Teachers say institution ill-prepared for intake swell

Published:Saturday | May 13, 2023 | 12:08 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Dr Taneisha Ingleton
Dr Taneisha Ingleton
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second right); Dr Taneisha Ingleton (third right), managing director of HEART/NSTA Trust; and Marianne van Steen, ambassador of the European Union to Jamaica greet HEART/NSTA corps students at the launch of the HEART/NSTA Tru
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second right); Dr Taneisha Ingleton (third right), managing director of HEART/NSTA Trust; and Marianne van Steen, ambassador of the European Union to Jamaica greet HEART/NSTA corps students at the launch of the HEART/NSTA Trust National Service Corps Residential Camps at AC Marriott Hotel on Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston on Friday, March 24.

There is growing concern about the HEART/NSTA Trust’s capacity to manage the expected influx of students due to an alleged shortage of teachers at the institution.

With the government-mandated removal of tuition and administrative fee requirements for courses up to the associate level as of April 1, its managing director, Dr Taneisha Ingleton, had expressed confidence that this would result in increased enrolment.

But teachers who spoke with The Gleaner, on condition of anonymity, claim the organisation suffers from a high turnover rate of teachers because of what they describe as major inefficiencies within its administration. This, they assert, results in the late payment of salaries, and courses being dragged out unnecessarily.

“That would discourage anybody from working there,” declared a teacher at the institution.

According to the teacher, who has been employed at different times at the institution for more than 20 years on one-year contracts, things were “smoother in the early years”.

He contends that over time, the workload has increased significantly and does not now match the salary of $3,300 that he is being paid per class delivery.

This, he said, is compounded by the tedious process to get paid, which involves a lot of paperwork.

“And what happens is that sometimes if you don’t submit those documents, you are not paid. And even sometimes when you do submit your claims, if the claims are submitted late, you are delayed in [receiving] payment. And even sometimes [where they are] are submitted on time, we still have delays of up to one to three months before we are ... paid,” he said.

A similar view was expressed by a former beauty therapy teacher who resigned from the job a few years ago.

“Say, for example, I go there in January and the January month end come, I get no pay. I continue to work because I already got the students, February month end come, no pay… . In March of that year, that’s when I start getting my January pay; I thought they were gonna give me my January, February, March pay. No. I got my January pay in March. And in April, I got my February pay; so you see the hullabaloo.” She said.

Decrying what they described as an outdated system, both teachers are calling for the payment system to be automated. Additionally, the instructor said the inadequate staff at the institution impeded her ability to work effectively. “Teachers who are not trained to teach a particular area are being told, ‘Just teach da subject ya for us because we don’t have a teacher for it.’… Even myself , it happen to me, where I’m told, ‘You can teach da topic here? We gonna give you the syllabus, we’re gonna give you the books.’ Just, in other words, study and go teach it because there is a shortage,” she said.

Taking courses

This, she said, often results in courses taking longer than their allotted time to be completed.

The teacher, who also owns and operates a business in the beauty industry, criticised the institution’s syllabus, which, she said, is not up to date with the demands of the working world.

“I have colleagues who have spas and salons, and when a HEART-trained student comes to them for internship, they’re like, ‘OMG, I have to go train them over.’ Because what is being taught in the classroom is old. When I say old-school ... .old-school methods, old-school techniques, everything is old-school,” she said.

But Ingleton told The Gleaner last week that in preparation for the influx, the institution has been doing “quite a lot”. This, she said, involves designing a framework to attract, recruit, train and retrain qualified instructors to meet the growing needs.

“Given the numbers that we are expecting, the matter of instructors comes to the fore,” she said. Compensation, she said, forms part of those discussions. Ingleton outlined, however, that the institution is still awaiting details of its new salary package under the compensation review structure from the Ministry of Finance.

Ingleton stated that the organisation employs 1,243 instructors as of April, with 259 employed full-time and 984 part-time instructors. She said there is provision in the 2023-24 Budget for the Trust to employ additional instructional resources to meet the needs of the workforce.

But over time, with the inclusion of more technology, this could also change.

“‘We will be using technology to reach out to more people through [the] teleconferencing of lectures. So, in the long run we will have less need for more manpower, because we are putting the systems and structures in place so that we can reach a wider number of people, without having more manpower on the ground,” she said.