A slew of issues, including poor salaries, lack of appointment, and inadequate resources, according to Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President Winston Smith, will force more of the nation's teachers to migrate for better job opportunities.
During an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer on Monday, he stressed that there were "several push factors in one melting pot" which have made it difficult to retain educators.
Pointing to poor salaries, he said a teacher with a first degree would get a net pay of $133,788.88 after the four per cent wage increase. For a job in the United States, he said a teacher would earn between US$4,000 and US$6,000 per month.
"Here is the choice now: Stay in Jamaica, hard-working, underpaid, little resources, can't get the results, being castigated by all stakeholders, and getting US$924 per month, then receive the prospect now of going abroad, working in an environment where you're earning US$6,000 per month," he said.
"Think of a teacher in Jamaica looking at returns and investments, what would stop them? They are going to go — smaller class size, air-conditioned classrooms, more resources available, better pay," he reasoned.
At the same time, Smith said the lack of adequate resources is abysmal in many schools. He argued that a teacher will have proper lesson plans and ensure topics are interesting, but that the environment is not conducive to success.
"The teacher becomes frustrated because you have the content, knowledge, methodology, did the plan, but you can't execute the plan in a meaningful way to bring about the result that you intrinsically would want and extrinsically to be motivated because of how your peers and stakeholders would respond to your performance," he said.
In relation to the lack of appointment, Smith said many teachers are not appointed permanently to a post, despite satisfactorily completing their appraisal and assessment.
"There are some teachers who are on the 1:25 ratio — they don't even have a teaching post available. Even if the board wanted to appoint them, the board can't apply said teacher because there is no post for them. We need a reclassification of schools based on the realities of today's operation — and not so much the computation from when schools were built," he said.
The JTA president also noted that underappreciation for teachers adds to the "melting pot of push factors".
"The society seems to be battering teachers for everything and it is as if everytime someone wants to make a hype, they attack teachers — even on social media. People are saying teachers not teaching and they are getting whole heap of holidays," he said.
"What they fail to take into consideration is, when a teacher enters the profession, you enter the profession knowing the pay is small but here are some things — I get my holiday so I can go and rest [and] I may be able to do some odd jobs. And I am not saying that's what teachers do but there are some who use holiday to plan for September to return to work," he elaborated.
Recently, the JTA president warned the country to brace for an exodus of teachers this year as already more than 400 have left the island to take up lucrative job opportunities in the United States.