The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has described as “painful, hurtful and disrespectful” the purported lack of concern by Education and Youth Minister Fayval Williams over the migration of teachers from Jamaica.
The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), in a media interview last week, put the country on notice that a massive exodus of teachers is looming, as 400 educators have already left this year for lucrative jobs in the US.
But, Education Minister Fayval Williams has said there is no need for concern regarding the migration of teachers, as every year the sector loses educators. She said, too, that she was not seeing a negative impact from this year’s migration.
Junior Spokesperson on Education and Training, Rasheen Roper Robinson, has chastised Williams for her remarks and has called for improvement in teacher compensation to be urgently addressed.
“You have to remember that teachers not only go into the classes to teach, but they are administrators in their own right. They are planners and supervisors, and then they are not getting the time, in many instances, to curate and have a second stream of income,” she explained.
“So, we have to give due diligence to them in terms of compensation and in terms of avenues that could be created for them to alleviate some of the stress… and some of the issues they are facing… Can we negotiate and also look at a shift system for teachers? These are some of the things we are looking at to keep our teachers here,” she continued.
“So, to have a minister and ministry to say that they are not concerned or alarmed that teachers are leaving is not only painful and hurtful but disrespectful, and we want better for our teachers,” Roper Robinson indicated.
For his part, Opposition spokesman on Education and Training, Senator Damion Crawford, admitted that teacher migration is not a new phenomenon, but it is continuing at an alarming rate.
He said the ability to replace teachers is getting even more difficult, as there is an increasing demand for local teachers by overseas recruiters in the US and Canada, for example.
Crawford highlighted that based on information he has received from local education stakeholders, including principals, the Jamaican teachers are being recruited in the areas of mathematics, science, and technical subjects.
He noted that the education minister continues to ignore the long-term impacts of teacher migration of the education system.
“Minister Williams, however, ignores that at any point that is chosen, the teachers employed to the system will deplete by approximately 30 per cent in 10 years, and 60 per cent in 20 years,” he suggested.
Citing interviews he has done with teachers who have left, Crawford said their reasons for leaving include “the inability to experience a reasonable quality of life on a teacher’s salary and the unlikely attainment of desirables such as houses and cars, the social disregard for teachers despite the challenges”, among others.
To that end, Crawford outlined a raft of proposed solutions to curb the mass exodus of teachers from Jamaica’s shores.
Immediately invest in the upgrading of staffrooms to create an adequate and comfortable environment for teachers to work from.Consider motor vehicle concessions of varying percentages for teachers serving five years, 10 years and 15 years unbroken. Reduce student loans by five per cent for every year, so that teachers stay within the public education system.Arrange for special teachers’ limit of possibly $14 million per person from the NHT, with a one per cent interest rate which transforms to the normal loan once the teacher leaves the system. Negotiate package deals with telecommunication providers for teachers to receive Internet free of cost. Create teacher/public sector housing schemes with rent control strategies in desirable communities that could be facilitated by the Housing Agency of Jamaica.Review the funds being allocated for STEM schools for students, to a STEM school for teachers, just training the teachers.Hold further negotiations with private sector practitioners to offer teachers adequate discounts. Reduce the red tape for principals to fill temporary teaching spots in the short-term, with retired and pre-trained teachers.Negotiate with the private sector to allow staff so inclined, two or three-hour sessions to practise or participate in teaching courses that are experiencing a shortage.Offer teaching training in the summer months, free of cost, for all university students and welcome others with degrees and diplomas who may be willing to consider teaching, at some point in the future. Recruit retired teachers to be mentors to less experienced teachers.
Crawford said: “We believe that these [measures] will assist in the immediate mitigation of the current problems being faced by principals to recruit teachers, but also, it will assist in ensuring that Jamaica remains competitive when teachers are being recruited for all spots in this world.”