Teachers in the dark
JTA President Winston Smith

JUST ahead of Government’s proposed July roll-out out of new salary scales for the public sector, teachers say they are in limbo as to exactly how the compensation review will benefit them.

President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Winston Smith says to date educators in the public school system are uncertain how the review will be applied for them, as what was presented to their membership did not find favour with the negotiating team.“As such we wrote to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to inform them of our rejection as well as furnish them with what we believe is a better and workable option. We have not yet received a response from them,” Smith told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, in his budget presentation in March, said it will cost more than $100 billion to restructure the public sector compensation system over the next three years. The Government, he said, was moving to provide more equitable salaries and benefits in the sector, where it says the compensation system is burdened by 325 salary scales and 185 allowances. The Government has advised that these allowance are also to be rationalised.

In the meantime, Smith said teachers are looking toward the approaching summer break, and the JTA has made it clear to the education ministry that teachers want their annual break in order to recover properly, and prepare for the work ahead in the new academic year in September. Last year, the Government, amidst howls of protest from the island’s public school teachers, launched a national summer school programme in July.

The move was one of the strategies, the ministry said, to recover learning loss from the novel coronavirus pandemic, and to bring back into the loop approximately 120,000 students who it said had not been in contact with the formal education system in the more than 18 months since schools closed in March 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic.Smith advised that there are still a few teachers who have not received pay for that programme, but that the ministry has indicated that it is trying to complete the payments.

At the same time, he said the JTA is urging the Government to begin improvement work on all schools, as well as the procurement process for furniture, so that schools can be ready and equipped in time for reopening. The JTA president added that a comprehensive assessment of the Internet service available at all schools also needs to be done, and upgrading carried out where there are gaps, in time for September. He said, too, that the results of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations should be released as soon as possible to parents and secondary institutions to enable all the stakeholders to position resources and make adequate preparations for students.

Alphea Saunders

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