A soft answer, Minister...

Friday, March 16, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I have been following the wage negotiations between the Jamaica Teachers' Association and the Government and it has left much to be desired. This is very near and dear to me seeing that I spent seven years in the public school system and I am still enjoying a very close relationship with the education system.

It appears as if the Government could benefit from some skills in the art of negotiation. I see many saying that this would never happen with the People's National Party (PNP) in power and the simple answer to that is, maybe the PNP has better negotiators. I don't know.

Are the teachers deserving of an increase? Most definitely.

Do we have the fiscal space for it? I'm not sure.

I see many arguing that we could have used the $800 million we spent on de-bushing or the $300 million in by-election. My question, is how feasible is that? How many teachers would that cover and for how long?

We must stop looking at using one-off spending to cover recurring expenditure. Yes, plenty teachers dip into their pockets daily to offset lunch, buy books, or even offer bus fare for all their students. Yes, the teacher doubles as counsellor, etc, but isn't that symptomatic of the society in which we live?

Why not lobby for equal distribution of resources? Or is that a utopian dream? Teachers really shouldn't be worrying about resources or if a child is hungry. So let's lobby Government to address the plight of the poor.

While we stand with the teachers, can we get some support to encourage the Jamaica Teachers' Association on the issue of licensing? We cannot be calling ourselves professionals while refusing to be regulated. The Jamaica Teaching Council is not an enemy; teachers should embrace it.

I would encourage the Government to reflect on its approach and remember a soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.

Lorenzo Smith





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