390 resign in 5 months, but no need for panic, says Samuda

Senior staff reporter

Friday, February 14, 2020

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Three-hundred and ninety teachers have left the public school system since September, Karl Samuda revealed yesterday. However, he insisted that there is no need for panic.

Samuda, the minister without portfolio who is overseeing the education ministry, said this is a small percentage of the island's 26,000 primary and secondary teachers, and that the ministry is already implementing measures to buffer the impact and fill the gaps.

Responding to media reports of teachers resigning in droves, Samuda stressed at a news conference yesterday that the number of resignations may seem very alarming.

“But when one considers that we have a total teaching population of just under 24,000, this amount comprises about 1.6 per cent... so it has impacted on the ministry but it is not at a level where we need to be alarmed. We would be alarmed if we were not monitoring it, and we have not taken measures to correct it,” he said.

The majority of the resignations have come from secondary schools, with region one, which comprises Kingston and St Andrew, accounting for 134, the bulk of the resignations.

Seventy-eight teachers in region two (Portland, St Thomas, and St Mary) have quit; 37 from region three (St Ann and Trelawny); 69 from region four (St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland); 40 from region five (Manchester and St Elizabeth); and 32 from St Catherine and Clarendon, which comprise region six.

He also made the point that while some teachers leave for positions overseas, not all have left the island, as some have taken up other opportunities here.

“Many opportunities arise here for teachers; some remain in the profession, others go into other professions, because they have equipped themselves with the kind of learning that is required for the private sector [and] others have left for the purposes of advanced educational opportunities locally and abroad,” he said.

Still, he acknowledged that in the main, teachers continue to leave for better salaries and working conditions.

“The fact of the matter is that there are a number of opportunities that arise for our teachers to go abroad in search of more salaries and conditions of work, and it is undeniable that in some situations in some of our schools and the environment in which the teachers have to work, are not ideal,” he said, adding that the ministry is doing all that it can to ameliorate these issues, within its resources.

Samuda said that despite the percentage being small in comparison to the overall numbers in the system, the ministry has felt the impact.

“It would be false to suggest that this level of migration hasn't impacted on the school system,” he admitted.

He said school boards have therefore been given the go-ahead to recruit retired teachers, a plan which has been on the table since last year. So far, 51 teachers have been asked back into the service, Samuda said.

Final year student teachers are also being engaged to carry out their practical experience at schools temporarily, while some schools have redeployed teachers, or increased teaching sessions.

Additionally, some schools have merged smaller classes to reduce the demand for teachers, while in some instances part-time teachers have been hired, and teachers are sharing expertise through the twinning of school programmes.

Samuda said over 50 schools have now been twinned and the ministry intends to double that amount this year under the initiative which was announced last July.

“There has been increased use of ICT through the videotaping of lessons... in fact, this is a direction that we need to go in so that we don't have to be as dependent on the physical presence of the teacher, but through videoconferencing we can reach a large number of students in a more concentrated way,” he explained.

The education ministry has also redeployed teachers who were previously engaged at all-age and junior high schools, to assist at the high school level.

“These teachers will not lose their benefits as a result of this move,” he stressed.

Samuda said the ministry is also allowing schools to recruit pre-trained graduates with at least a first degree in areas of expertise where there is a shortfall.

“I believe we are going to have an adequate number to fill the places of those who have resigned,” he stated.

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