'Darkest time in history of Jamaica's education system'

'Darkest time in history of Jamaica's education system'

JTA president calls for more support after teacher killed

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

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JAMAICA Teachers' Association President Owen Speid has described the murder of Vauxhall High School theatre arts teacher, Carl Samuels, as one of the worst to have hit the country's education system.

“This has to be one of the saddest and darkest times in the history of Jamaica's education system because, as you know, teachers are the ones in this country who have been giving the most overtime for free. And it is testament to what happened on Saturday, because this young teacher could have been [with] family, with his friends, and just enjoying his time, but he is so concerned and so dedicated that he spent his time here on a weekend,” Speid said on Monday.

He made the statement during devotion at Vauxhall Hall High School on Windward Road in East Kingston.

“…It is so unfortunate that society, when they hear that teachers get a little bit of a break in the summer, that there is a whole lot of hullabaloo about how much break the teachers get but no one considers that the teachers have to spend extra time to do their planning. They have to spend extra time to do the marking, they have to spend extra time to set the test items, and none of this can be done in their regular working hours,” Speid continued.

At the same time, Speid implored stakeholders to continue supporting schools.

“I am very pleased to see the turnout. I am happy to know that people from all walks of life coming on to this compound this morning (Monday), and we want you to continue supporting schools, in general, from wherever you come, because teachers alone cannot do it. We have to understand that we have to get back to the days when we used the community and depended on the community to ensure that schools go on,” the president urged.

Samuels' life was cut short last Saturday when two gunmen attacked him on the school compound.

The teacher, a licensed firearm holder, traded bullets with his attackers. When the smoke cleared, Samuels and one of the gunmen were shot. Both have since died.

The deceased gunman has been identified as 19-year-old Romaine Panton of Miller Terrance in East Kingston.

“It is a sad state that we are in, when we can be saying... that it is someone from the same community, maybe a past student, as far as I am hearing, that is involved in something like this. The last time I was at this school I had devotion with the boys, let me call them young men.

“While I was here, I was telling them about anger and anger management and we had to extend that to say to the young people that we have to understand that it is important to start doing the little things right, from as early as possible, because when we start breaking the rules from so early, then those things will grow with you, stay with you, and will force you into making wrong choices — choices like those that were made on Saturday when those thugs entered this premises…” Speid said.

Noting that teachers are migrating rapidly, Speid charged that if measures are not put in place to safeguard their well-being and to encourage them to stay, it is just a matter of time before more of them leave.

“…Even if they are going through hard times, there, at the end of a month, they come home with something that is reasonable when converted to Jamaican dollars. And so, I am calling on all of us to support our teachers.

“Teachers, I know how you are feeling. I see the look on your faces and we know that you are in distress,” he said, adding that when teachers get the best treatment, it will be reciprocated.

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