PRINCIPALS on Wednesday expressed support for suggestions made by the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) to help retain teachers in the education system.
JTA President Winston Smith, during an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer on Monday, recommended celebrating teachers through partnerships, free schooling up to the tertiary level for educators' children, and providing a temporary education infrastructure development in place of the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill.
Pointing to the JTA president's suggestion for an education infrastructure development programme, Webster Memorial Basic School Principal Kay-Ann Russell Temple agreed, noting that it would help to improve the school system.
"It should happen. I think the fast-tracking of the Bill would have caused the fast-tracking of the teachers to leave," she said.
"I believe in the improvement of the education system. Whenever the Bill comes into law, it means that we are going to be in trouble at the early childhood level because most early childhood institutions are privately owned and therefore these teachers are going to demand the money," said Russell Temple.
Meanwhile, Principal of Tarrant Primary School Hadajah Freebourne Raffington stressed that Smith's recommendations are major pull factors for educators.
"They are very good suggestions but the main reason why teachers migrate is for a better standard of living, better working conditions," she said.
Also referring to the infrastructure development programme, Freebourne Raffington said, "Teachers and students would want to come to an environment that is clean, and you're able to work in. How the system is financed, it doesn't lend itself for adequate refurbishing and proper refurbishing of classrooms and even the school compounds so that it would make it more accommodating."
Principal at St Jago High School Collette Fuertado Pryce said she agreed that free schooling up to the tertiary level for educators would be a good move, as "teachers have it rough".
"I just know that the situation is critical. I will be facing a shortage of teachers going into September and I know that there are colleagues that are worse off than I am," she said.
"I would also say, go ahead with the [JTC] Bill. Some serious things are happening. There are still some adjustments to be made before it is passed, but I know all of those things will be sorted out," she added.
Meanwhile, principal of the Essex Hall Primary School Maxine Lewis argued that celebrating educators would help to stem the migration issue of the teachers.
According to Lewis, educators are barely recognised for their efforts.
"I believe that would be really good. Most of the time we feel unappreciated. We are educators and people don't appreciate us. Teachers work without any incentive because they want to see the growth of the school and the development of the children," she said.
For educators' children benefiting from free education, she said, "Teachers don't normally have a lot of children, either. Maybe one or two. It is very difficult. The cost of high school is expensive, it still have to pay. Is either you pay, or you'll be ashamed."
The JTA president had pointed out that a slew of issues, including poor salaries, lack of appointments, and inadequate resources will force more of the nation's teachers to migrate for better job opportunities. He stressed that there were "several push factors in one melting pot" which have made it difficult to retain educators.