(JAMAICA GLEANER) — Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President Owen Speid said that the ongoing migration of the nation’s teachers to so-called greener pastures was having a negative impact on some schools, resulting in the merger of classes to make up for the shortfall.
“The constant migration of Jamaican teachers to greener pastures is having a crippling effect on the quality of education being offered to the nation’s children,” Speid said, noting that critical subjects have had to be dropped because there were no teachers to teach them.
In a Gleaner interview, Speid said he was worried that if the current trend continues, the education sector could be producing dysfunctional graduates in the near future.
Commenting on the delay in appointing a portfolio minister for education, Speid urged Prime Minister Andrew Holness to relinquish control of the ministry. Holness took the reigns of the ministry earlier this year with the sacking of Ruel Reid, who is now facing corruption charges.
“The situation must receive immediate attention and I am recommending that Prime Minister Andrew Holness resign immediately as minister of education. He does not have the time to deal with education,” said Speid. “I have no problem with him making Karl Samuda the permanent minister. He must name a minister, not a minister without portfolio acting in the ministry of education.”
Speid said that since Holness took charge of the ministry, he has not attended “for not even five minutes, a meeting with the JTA”.
The JTA boss also wants Holness to name full-time appointees to the positions of permanent secretary and chief education officer.
“An action plan needs to be put in place, but with these acting positions, the people in these positions cannot plan for further than six months. There is a need for an action plan to last at least one year. The situation is untenable,” he charged.
Speid is also calling on the Government to act speedily to improve the living conditions of teachers and those who have retired in recent times.
“How can a teacher, one year before retiring, be written to to prepare for retirement, yet, on retirement, have to wait for more than a year before they get one cent?” asked Speid. “Teachers must be treated as a special group. They must be given bursaries to study and the opportunity to afford service lots; teachers are not going to stay (in the classroom) if they cannot see themselves retiring comfortably.”