Has the Jamaica Teachers’ Association gone rogue?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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IN this space we are strong believers in Jamaica's teachers and the saying 'if you can read this, thank a teacher'. Yet we must admit to a growing discomfiture with the emerging image of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA).

Let us first confess that we hold teachers to a special standard because so much of what our children and our country become rests on their shoulders. For us they must be paragons of virtue, beacons of learning and pillars of wisdom, charity, industry and discipline.

We are prepared to be corrected and even to accept that teachers largely reflect the declining moral standards of our society. But we insist that those who choose a career in the classroom should be something other than the lowest common denominator of our society.

It is as if the JTA is lurching from one dispute to the next and appears to be the new virago of the times.

In the latest round of quarrels, the JTA is fighting over the result of elections for its president-elect, the issue of vacation leave and the need to have teachers placed in schools where they are truly needed.

We need not mention the unfortunate caricature of the minister of education as a mongrel by a past president who has again become the choice of teachers to lead the association.

We are not for a minute suggesting that teachers don't have legitimate causes or that they should sit by idly and accept whatever comes at them. Teachers and the JTA, which represents them, are not wimps or eunuchs.

So what we are contending is that they approach their disputes, not in the same raucous way that we have come to expect of the uneducated and ill-bred, but as people charged with setting example and moulding impressionable minds.

We expect, for example, that their elections would be conducted with fairness, honesty and a willingness to accept the will of the teachers as expressed in their votes.

It is also our view that good sense would suggest that vacation leave for teachers be requested during periods when schools are out or are not in instructional mode. This goes without saying for teachers who are highly specialised.

To send teachers on leave at the height of the school year is severely disruptive and irresponsible.

As for the matter of placing teachers where they are most needed, that is hardly worth wasting time discussing. What the discussion should be about is how to minimise the displacement of teachers to avoid, wherever possible, dislocation and turmoil in their lives.

The JTA needs to provide responsible leadership and not kowtow to those who only want to hold onto what were seen as benefits in the past and who believe that nothing needs to change.

As archaic as it may sound, teachers can't be people who are in it just for the sake of having a job.




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