TROY, Trelawny — Melody Smith, senior guidance counsellor at Troy High School in this parish, is insisting that the strong passion she has for assisting children to achieve their goals is enough for her to pay no attention to attractive offers abroad and abandon Jamaican students.
Arising from increased discontent in the education system over salaries, hundreds of teachers have been forced to take up offers in the United States, Canada, England, and other foreign lands.
Smith also revealed that it has come to her attention in recent times that guidance counsellors and social workers are among the professions being lured to take up jobs in Canada and some states in America.
"Recently I have heard of opportunities where guidance counsellors, as well as social workers, are needed in places like Canada. They (Canada) seem to be always recruiting and inviting persons to come. And I am not exactly sure of which state it is, but I know of a few guidance counsellors who would have left for September to take on new roles in the US. And so I understand that coming now on stream is a new avenue for counsellors to leave the country," Smith reasoned.
But the senior guidance counsellor at the deep rural Trelawny school argued that she does not presently envisage herself yielding to the attraction of better wage offers overseas and leave the country, even as she is a parent who wants betterment for her child.
"I don't see that in the near future and I certainly hope I am never forced to make that decision because as a parent myself I also have to think of a better life for my child. Currently as it stands, it is difficult, but I am willing to work and to help the students here in Jamaica to the best of my ability. I see the need, there is a sense of attachment to the Jamaican product – the students – and I feel like there is something here for me to do," she said.
In fact, the strong patriotism she has for her country is among the reasons Smith put forward as to why she continues to ignore the opportunity to work overseas.
"The truth is I am very passionate about Jamaica and I really want to serve. I love the Jamaican children and we have some very creative children here in Jamaica. I believe we have resilient children here in Jamaica," she noted.
She furher noted: "Being a guidance counsellor, I am exposed to challenges and the hardships that they face on a day-to-day basis and then they come to school and they deliver. After having conversations with them and you see them delivering, it motivates me to serve, to serve Jamaica and in my little corner here in Trelawny, to do my best to help our Jamaican children to achieve their goals.
So I am one of those persons who would really remain in Jamaica to serve the Jamaican children."
She conceded that it is only natural to be tempted to yield to the attractive overseas offers, but although she needs money it is not her chief incentive, pointing out that she is motivated by the students' accomplishments.
"As humans, yes you will think about it from time to time but the situation always keep me grounded. One thing, I am not motivated by the money. Not that I don't need it you know because God knows I need it, but that's not my main motivation. When a student comes to me and say to me "Miss thank you for assisting me with this or thank you for speaking to me or thank you for helping me to deal with the situation". I cannot tell you the joy that I feel or the sense of fulfillment that I get from that," she said.
She cited a scenario in which she was left in tears of joy, after an improved student publicly declared that she was one of those who motivated him to excel.
"Recently we had our student leaders giving their speeches while vying for positions of headboy and headgirl. And there was one of our prospective student leaders there. And he did some reflection and he gave some self disclosure and he said he was not one of the best students when he came to this institution but there are few persons who believed in him and never stopped believing in him and gave him the opportunity and he identified me as one of those persons. When I heard that coming out of his mouth, for me it was a moment that I could not even explain. Tears flowed down my face. I felt that I had accomplished something. If you had given me a million dollars I don't think I could feel the way that I felt that afternoon in the auditorium when the student said that," she recounted.
"So these are the things that motivate me in the profession that I am in. I want to help the Jamaican children, give them a voice, to advocate for them. So I am not seeing where I will leave this country, at least any time soon. I believe that my work is not done here," she declared.
The Trelawny native further outlined that another motivation for her to resist any overseas offer at this time is to play her part in building her parish.
"I was born in Ulster Spring, Trelawny, definitely one of the driving forces for me to stay. I do want to give back to my community and also to give the students a voice here in this parish. I think a lot of the times schools like Troy High School, the students here do not have a voice simply because of where we are. But if you walk onto the campus you see that children are here who are excelling ... they are doing well. But it takes people who are committed to the cause to push them forward and to ensure that their voices are heard," she cited.