Jamaica does not care about her teachers; or so say our actions
Placard-bearing teachers at St Elizabeth Technical High School stage a sit-in at the Santa Cruz-based institution on Friday.

GALATIANS 6:7 reads "...whatever one sows, that will he also reap". This is one of the many scriptures that have permanent universal application.

No matter how you phrase it, it is obvious to all that whatever one invests is pretty much what they will reap. How literal this is meant varies, but we all get the gist. This particular text preserves relevance, especially because it offers a reliable answer to many pressing questions in society.

This is religion's iteration of Newton's Third Law that says, "For every action [force] in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction." What is the point of the above? Well, once again, our teachers are dissatisfied with the percentage of the budget allocated to compensate them for their efforts. They have been very vocal about their position, and many have moved to industrial action. Soon we will witness a decline in the quality of education the students receive, and many people, including Government officials, will be surprised.

Please allow me to quickly dispel any notion that I am insinuating teachers were sabotaging students as a part of their protest. I assume most teachers are passionate educators who have set out to award students the best learning experience they can offer. I assume the vast majority of teachers enter the profession because they recognise how important a part the role plays in the future of our country. However, when the budget was announced and it appears to mirror the prior, which was wildly insufficient, we can assume they were torn. We can also assume they will not feel as incentivised to pretend they don't feel unappreciated and undervalued. In fact, we don't have to assume because they have been very vocal about it. If after voicing their dissatisfaction, nothing is done to quell their displeasure then they cannot be blamed for assuming the Jamaica Government does not care.

The part that is most baffling is, everybody knows exactly how important our teachers are. Our teachers are arguably our most important resource because every bit of information they divulge goes into shaping the future. It is not even a case of "closed mouths don't get fed". What does it take for their elected leaders to recognise their contributions and compensate them appropriately?

No, it is not a case of insufficient funds. I could highlight a plethora of projects and sectors that receive chunks of the expenditure that are objectively far less impactful than our teachers. This much is public knowledge, and we are asking our teachers to witness these things, voice complaints, then be ignored long enough for desperation to have them accept the terms.

There are far too many examples of developed nations attaining their status through education for us to place such low priority on our trained fountains of knowledge, teachers. Since our actions dictate that we do not value our educators, other nations do. Currently there are several employment opportunities for our teachers overseas, with investors willing to compensate them much better than we ever will. Unfortunately, we have not even devised a fair system through which we can secure passage to these countries for our teachers to take advantage of — these bits of blessing. Maybe if we did that we could entertain the idea of remittances; but no.

I believe this is a product of a much bigger problem. We are not adept at future-proofing. I suppose we are to celebrate the more self-evident improvements like the big road projects. According to the World Economic Forum, "By linking producers to markets, workers to jobs, students to school, and the sick to hospitals, roads are vital to any development agenda."

So yes, I do believe the road projects are paramount, however Jamaica's most valuable resource will always be her people. For as long as teachers are largely responsible for the quality of this resource, we need to place a higher priority on our educators.

When the 'futile' protests rob them of their motivation and the repercussions are what they are, I hope this piece serves as a point of reference so there is no confusion as to what or who the catalyst was. If we want better for ourselves our priorities must reflect that for "...whatever one sows, that he will also reap".

Hugh Graham

Hugh Graham is Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Western, Opposition Spokesman on Commerce, Science and Technology; and CEO of Paramount Trading Company Ltd.

Hugh Graham

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