'A teacher in my parish got $6.68 for salary in March'
Teachers are as much responsible for the learning that happens in a classroom, such as this one, as they are for the life lessons children take away from the classroom.

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — It was easy for some teachers in Westmoreland to answer their union's call to stay off the job Thursday. Some had not been paid and those who were, complained of being short-changed.

"The teachers are feeling disrespected in regards to anomalies, the queries, the number of different issues regarding salaries," said president of the Westmoreland Chapter of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Kerry Ann Wolliston.

"When you call the [Ministry of Education's] regional office or the head office, no one answers the phone. When they do answer, teachers are given the runaround. I've had teachers who did not get their salary in March and received their salary during the Easter break. So, those teachers have to do without a salary for over two to three weeks. Some still have not received their salary. There was even a teacher in my parish who got $6.68 for her salary in March and was not paid the correct amount up until now," she told the Jamaica Observer.

At least one teacher linked the struggles they face with what they see as an unfair salary hike given to parliamentarians.

"We are disgruntled with the small wages, and then the prime minister is getting so much over us. We are doing the work and he is not doing any work; he is just sitting down up there looking down over us. Come on, we are the nation builders. They are supposed to look out for us," argued teacher of Savanna-la-Mar Primary and Infant School Delise Ellison.

It was only their dedication to the job, she said, that made them ignore the call to strike and instead show up for work on Thursday. However, the student turnout was not ideal, Ellison said.

At the nearby Godfrey Stewart High School one educator, who asked not to be identified by name, revealed that, like other teachers, she was yet to receive this month's salary.

"I got calls from some teachers who did not get their pay today. While some got pay yesterday, some got pay today. Myself included did not get paid so I am a bit disappointed and disgruntled — just like most of the teachers are — not only at Godfrey Stewart High but at other schools," she said.

"CXC is going on now and we are going the extra mile to ensure that we do what we have to do for them [students] to reach where they are, and we are not being compensated the way that we should," she added.

She said most teachers turned out at Godfrey Stewart High on Thursday but had a sit-in.

Though inconvenienced by the strike which forced some schools to shutter their doors, some parents were in full support of the teachers.

"They really need their pay. It is the best thing for them to do in terms of the protest," said Roxan Ranger as she collected her child from the Savanna-la-Mar Primary and Infant School which closed at midday

Another parent, Novia Gayle who works in the tuck shop at the school, was also sympathetic to the teachers and others in the public sector.

"It is really unfair to them. I think the Government should give what is due to them because they really deserve it. Not only teachers, but everybody who works for the Government deserves to get their right pay once they are doing their job," she stated.

Checks with other schools in the parish revealed varying levels of success for the strike. Principal of Little London High School Garfield James said the announcement by the JTA affected the turnout of teachers and students at his school. However, classes were held.

While Manning's School was in full session Thursday, Vice-Principal Feona Vassell-Kerr said she was unable to say what will happen for the rest of the month.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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