THE MEDIA have done an ordinary job of providing the public with information to seed the cloud of the debate over the issue of performance-based pay for teachers.
We have lazily resorted to reporting ‘he said this’ and ‘she said that’, gargling the words of so-and-so president so-and-so chairman, before spitting them in newspapers, through radio and on TV for consumption by our audience.
As a man who ran intensely on this same treadmill for the last six years, I will acknowledge that the media have failed to investigate and tell stories of the teachers drowning in a morass of rampantly unruly children, an underfunded school management system, along with principals who cannot manage the neat buttering of a slice of bread, let alone something as demanding as a primary school.
And because of our failure, the conversation around teachers getting performance-based pay is prejudiced, with the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and its front-line soldiers being made to look like defenders of slackness when they dismiss talk of linking classroom performance and student results to remuneration.
The JTA’s stance on performancebased pay is about the only major issue on which I can agree with this trade union. The organisation usually plays a good political game as both mollycoddler and attack dog for Maas Joshua’s party.
But as this Government continues in office, I will have many opportunities to call out the JTA. But at least on the ‘pay-based-on-results’ matter, the organisation has the interests of the majority of its members at heart.
Those of us with children in the prep-school system are unaware of the realities faced by more than 10,000 men and women working in the primary-school system. When we drop off our kin and walk them to their airconditioned classes and marvel at how quiet and studious they look when engaged in iPad time (with the iPad ‘provided’ by the school at great cost to you), we leave with a warped view of the reality in the majority of schools.
Within the bubble that we bind ourselves, there is only space for us to expect that teachers must be able to make geniuses of our children, therefore, we cannot entertain any objection or reasoned counterpoint to the argument that teachers must earn relative to the level at which they perform and students produce results. Sadly, too many of our policymakers spend too much time sniffing the nitrous of luxury and comfort that they hawk such regulations on the teaching profession, foolishly believing it to be logical.
A friend of mine related to me recently about how an eight-year-old boy at his rural school stole some foreign currency from the handbag of a teacher in another grade. The boy’s parents had no idea where he fled to after the act. The boy returned to the unsecured school compound days later and proceeded to rob several students of monies they had been given by their parents to pay for an expedition. This after he was apparently tipped off that students would be walking with extra cash that day.
Again he could not be located by parents, who lamented how they had no idea how to handle him and had begged Government, without success, to take him off their hands.
My friend, who regularly has to use his meagre teacher’s salary to buy toothpaste, toothbrushes, along with other toiletries, to give to students under his charge, was at his wits’ end. He moaned about his class of 28 gradethree students and how only about two of them could recognise the letters of the alphabet. He says the next time he calls me, he’ll be asking for help to get a job so he can escape hell.
His situation is not an isolated one; nor are the student problems related. My friend laughs at the idea of performance-based pay and reminds me that everything in his classroom is soaked during even moderate rain because the roof exists in name only. And yet we sit in boardrooms at The Gleaner-RJR, Observer, Nationwide and elsewhere, banging tables and speaking passionately about the need for performance-based pay in local schools. KMT.