The National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ), is recommending that the proposed fine for persons found teaching without the requisite licence be increased from $500,000 to $2.5 million.
The NPTAJ made the recommendations on Wednesday in its written submissions before the Joint Select Committee of Parliament examining the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill.
The association said “In other jurisdictions, anyone convicted of practising without a licence faces a range of penalties. These range from fines, incarceration, probation, to restitution. If someone is convicted of practising a profession without a licence, they will likely face a fine. The size of the fine depends on the kind of activity engaged in.”
It added that: “We also believe the fine of $500,000 is too low to act as any form of deterrent. This should be raised to at least $2.5 million for it to make sense.”
The NPTA said the Bill, as constructed, will help to protect students and parents, based on sections 30 (4) (a), which states: “If the person is charged with or convicted before a court of competent jurisdiction in Jamaica or elsewhere of an offence of a kind specified in the condition, the person shall, within 14 days, give written notice of the charge or conviction, to the Council, containing the details specified in the condition.”
In noting that teachers are entrusted with educating children for the latter to lead successful lives as adults, the NPTAJ said, “With such an important role, criminal background checks are (should be) a necessity for anyone wishing to become an educator.”
The association said it is against this background that it supports the Bill while pointing to the ‘fit and proper’ guidelines as outlined in Sections 34 and the 4th Schedules, which it said will also further protect the nation’s children. The sections state that: “It shall take into account the results of the criminal record check of the person, including any offence of which the person may have been convicted; the circumstances of the conviction and the lifestyle and conduct of the person subsequent to the conviction.”
“These new sections will remove from the hands of the Ministry of Education and Youth the dismissal of a teacher if convicted of a crime in any court,” the association stated.
It pointed to the case of a teacher who was convicted in 2019 of assaulting a student at a primary school in Kingston, and said despite numerous letters and meetings with the Education Ministry, “nothing has been done to remove him”.
The NPTAJ also suggested that Section 50 of the Bill be amended to include persons convicted of criminal offences. As such, it said Section 50 (a)(v) should read: “Has been convicted before a court of competent jurisdiction in Jamaica or elsewhere, of an offence.”
The association charged that, “The church and trust schools want more autonomy to speak on these issues, but we disagree. The punishment of teachers who have committed a criminal offence should be determined by this Act, not by some principal, board or political animal trying to protect their own.”