MANDEVILLE, Manchester — At least one school principal says he is bracing for academic loss amid a strike by public school teachers. The strike, which started in seven parishes Thursday, is expected to last six days.
Principal Paul Grant, of Bellefield High, a shift school in Manchester, told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday said if the strike continues as planned "the school system will be crippled".
He added: "We are bracing for some academic loss that we can't escape. Teachers were required to submit their exam scripts to the heads of departments and to be vetted by their vice-principals for printing for [internal] exams starting in the middle of June," said Grant.
"If this continues into next week then there will be significant academic loss in terms of the final preparations. I suspect that between now and the middle of June some teachers may not complete their unit and curriculum, so the impact Thursday, Friday, and possibly into next week, will have rippling effects in terms of the students and their preparations for their end-of-year results," added Grant.
The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), led by president La Sonja Harrison, called the strike and urged educators to register their displeasure with the handling of anomalies and discrepancies arising from Government's compensation review.
Teachers in Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, Kingston, St Andrew, and St Thomas are set to continue industrial action today, Friday, May 26.
Teachers in Hanover, St James, Trelawny, St Ann, St Mary, and Portland are set to take industrial action May 29 and 30, and an all-island industrial strike is set for May 31 and June 1.
The teachers, however, could be ordered back to work today when a team from the JTA meets with the Ministry of Labour.
Principal of Maggotty High School in St Elizabeth Sean Graham said he dismissed school early on Thursday.
"We had to make a decision to send the students home at 9:30 am. There are some students here doing CXC and others are at different areas studying. The teachers supported and then we had to send the students home just to make sure that they are safe," he said.
"It is slated for tomorrow [Friday] but I don't know in terms of Government intervention what will take place. We are listening and awaiting information, but if we don't hear anything by a certain time we would have to get in touch with parents so that they know how to make their decisions," added Graham.
A senior teacher at BB Coke High School in Junction who requested anonymity told the Observer why she supported the industrial action.
"There are teachers who have not gotten their retroactive payments. There are persons who are still not sure about their monthly salary. Monies were taken from our salaries in March, and we don't know what it was for. There is no explanation," she said.
Principal of St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz Keith Wellington said only half of the 98 teachers there turned up for work on Thursday and just over 600 students showed up for classes.
"Only 50 per cent of our teachers are here today and 50 per cent of the student population as well. I have excluded the grade 11 and sixth-formers who are only here for exams. Across grades seven to 10, we would have expected regular classes, [but] only 50 per cent of the students are here," he said.
Principal of Cross Keys High School Paul Morgan said 33 of 58 teachers turned up for work on Thursday and only 83 students for classes.
"I am impacted. I don't have my full complement of staff and my student population is at a low. I have had to be merging classes," he said.
When asked if he was prepared for the planned continued industrial action, Morgan was reluctant to say.
"I can't speak on that, because as a principal I have nothing to do with strike, that is a matter for teachers and their union," he said.