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Disrespect, salaries fuelling teacher migration, says JTA president

Blasts politicians, 'failed lawyers' on radio

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer writer

Monday, November 18, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — The head of the teachers' union says, given the rate at which teachers are migrating, Jamaica may have to start looking at recruiting teachers from overseas.

“We [are] going to have to find real solutions to this problem, or else Jamaica is going to have to start recruiting teachers [from overseas],” Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President Owen Speid declared during the JTA's half-yearly meeting at St John's Methodist Church in Montego Bay last Friday.

According to Speid, teachers are migrating, mainly due to disrespect from politicians and people in the media. However, he said that salaries also play a major role, adding that some teachers are slated to leave in January, others in April, June, and at the end of August.

“It is a very serious thing, and I am wondering how come the Government is sleeping on this one for so long. The Government needs to wake up and smell the coffee and understand that this teacher shortage is crippling the education sector and it is going to hurt the children. So, whether they like teachers or not, they have to understand that this teacher migration thing is going to affect the results that we can produce in our children,” said Speid.

He went speedily through his long list of “disrespect teachers faced over the years”, arguing that he had news for people who were expecting the JTA to be quiet this year due to the fact that it is “not a salary negotiating year”.

Among the politicians he had on his list of those who had made offending statements and actions were former Finance Minister Audley Shaw, former education ministers Maxine Henry Wilson, Ruel Reid and Ronald Thwaites.

“I remember when Deacon Thwaites was minister of education, about four and a half, maybe five years ago, he said teachers' colleges should stop training teachers, because we have too many teachers; we have a surplus. I remember that,” Speid told the gathering.

“I remember that same Deacon Thwaites was the person who started it out, cutting down the number of teachers who can go on leave each year,” he said, adding “everything that he came up with when he was minister was oppressive to teachers. He was always anti-teachers, and I am not afraid of calling names, because I don't play politics,” Speid said.

“So, the honourable Thwaites passed on the baton to the honourable Ruel Reid. Colleagues, no one in this room should forget that the disrespect of teachers continued under Ruel Reid,” stated Speid, as he recalled that Reid had referred to some school administrators as “extortionists”.

“So all of them come and disrespect and now they come and talking about teacher migration; they are lucky that all a yuh nuh gone already,” Speid declared.

He said that, in order to keep teachers on the island, the Government needs to look at reclassification of salaries up to 100 per cent immediately, the provision of serviced lots, affordable housing, duty concession on motor vehicles, and the return of study grants, similar to what was done in the 1990s.

“The Government needs to cut out the disrespect and the distracting of teachers. And it is not just the Government, but the people in high places. You have some people on the radio stations; some of them are failed lawyers and they take a mic now. They get a little thing to do on radio and they are out there pretending as if they know everything about education. I tell you, they know nothing,” charged Speid.


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