Stretch­ing our teach­ers thin

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -


WHILE I am in no po­si­tion to at­tribute the alarm­ing rate at which our teach­ers are col­laps­ing and dy­ing on and off the job to mount­ing stress lev­els, it is un­for­tu­nate and re­gret­table that Ja­maican teach­ers are hav­ing to carry out ex­ces­sive work­loads in their daily op­er­a­tions in an ef­fort to ed­u­cate the na­tion.

We in the teach­ing fra­ter­nity are all aware that this par­tic­u­lar job has al­ways been stress­ful.

Be­sides hav­ing over­size classes, less-than-ac­cept­able cus­tomer ser­vice at the min­istry’s re­gional of­fices, less-than-sup­port­ive par­ents, lit­tle or no re­sources with which to work, poor in­fra­struc­ture, we are faced with the mam­moth task of hav­ing to raise funds to main­tain the fa­cil­ity and pro­vide im­pe­tus for the pro­grammes of­fered by these pub­lic schools.

The de­mands on lo­cal teach­ers are ever in­creas­ing, and we must strive to get the best re­sults pos­si­ble from our charges. It is not pru­dent, how­ever, to ask our teach­ers in the main­stream pub­lic schools to se­cure im­pres­sive re­sults out of chil­dren with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, since we know that in many other ju­ris­dic­tions, there are spe­cial fa­cil­i­ties pro­vided for them so they can be ably as­sisted by spe­cial­ist teach­ers.

It is only af­ter those chil­dren are placed in these fa­cil­i­ties that the fig­ures for main­stream stu­dents are com­puted. I say un­re­servedly that the lit­er­acy rate pub­lished an­nu­ally for our pub­lic schools is grossly un­der­es­ti­mated sim­ply be­cause there are many stu­dents in those num­bers who strug­gle with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties and should not be in the main­stream pub­lic schools, but in­stead in spe­cial fa­cil­i­ties.

Quite often, we hear ref­er­ence be­ing made to pay­ing teach­ers by per­for­mance. But isn’t the per­for­mance of stu­dents tied di­rectly or in­di­rectly to the per­for­mance of par­ents, the per­for­mance of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, and the per­for­mance of the stu­dents them­selves?


Who takes re­spon­si­bil­ity when class sizes of more than 50 stu­dents to a sin­gle teacher still ex­ist? Who takes re­spon­si­bil­ity when pri­mary schools’ class­rooms are still be­ing par­ti­tioned in some cases by thin, ema­ci­ated black­boards? Surely, this con­trib­utes sig­nif­i­cantly to high lev­els of noise and dis­trac­tion.

When one con­sid­ers that a pri­mary school gets a pal­try $50,000 per year for its main­te­nance grant, who takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for the poor light­ing in class­rooms that fre­quently comes about when bulbs mal­func­tion or go out?

A huge num­ber of our mem­bers have reached frus­tra­tion lev­els brought on by the long hours of over­time – some­times all­nighters – that they must spend mark­ing books, mark­ing School- Based As­sess­ments, writ­ing ex­ten­sive daily les­son plans, leav­ing their classes to act as nurses for sick chil­dren in the pri­mary schools in par­tic­u­lar, and do­ing daily chores such as fundrais­ing ef­forts to keep school doors open, while deal­ing with ev­er­in­creas­ing pa­per­work.

It is even more de­press­ing to our mem­bers that there is some­times no ap­pre­ci­a­tion or re­mu­ner­a­tion for their ef­fort. It is time for those re­spon­si­ble to take a look fun­da­men­tal flaws in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem or we will con­tinue to lose some of our best prac­ti­tion­ers. OWEN SPEID School Prin­ci­pal

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