Letters to the Editor

Brace for teacher shortage to worsen

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

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Dear Editor,

As the new academic year commences, it is not surprising that many schools are still searching to fill vacancies. Throughout the entire summer, schools had been circulating numerous adverts in hopes of finding replacements. In fact, one could already foresee a challenge when some institutions had to publish three or more ads, seeking teachers for different subject areas.

Although the Ministry of Education has taken steps to alleviate the shortage of math and science teachers, the country continues to experience a deficit in these areas. Not only are young professionals abandoning the system, but school administrators have also expressed concerns that they are losing many of their seasoned teachers.

Similarly, the modern languages sector has been faced with a scarcity of teachers. Most of these graduates who leave teachers' colleges annually prefer to go on teaching assistant programmes in France and Colombia or elsewhere. In fact, more than 80 per cent of graduates from Shortwood Teachers' College with a Bachelor of Education in French and Spanish tend to pursue one of these programmes each year. Understandably, we would have a difficulty filling the gaps.

The question of remuneration is quite appropriate to begin with. The stipend that teachers take home after paying all their bills is just not enough. Notwithstanding, a lot of them try to make ends meet with the little remaining. It is, therefore, reasonable why a lot them would seek employment opportunities elsewhere, primarily overseas or in other sectors locally. Undeniably, educational institutions across more developed countries are constantly on a recruitment drive, and our teachers are seizing every opportunity to explore greener pastures. After all, who wouldn't?

Secondly, a lot of our teachers have become exhausted due to the constant and unnecessary pressure on school administrators and heads of department. This is an issue that many will not discuss, but there are teachers who have been suffocating from a toxic environment — their superiors are condescending. In fact, there are some teachers who have been working at institutions for more than three years and are not aware of their status, be it full-time, probationary or temporary.

This is one technique that is used to try to control teachers. When they have had enough, they gracefully resign in the name of wanting to maintain professionalism.

Additionally, for others, they are tired of the indiscipline of children. Some do not see themselves progressing personally and professionally. Admittedly, the scope is limited in terms of promotion in the teaching industry. Others leave for different purposes.

The Ministry of Education will need to brace for it. There are more teachers who will leave during this first term, and others at the beginning of the January 2019 term. As a result, schools will need to put in place contingency plans to facilitate the shortfall so that the students do not suffer. This is going to be a rocky journey.

The Government, the Jamaica teachers' association and the Teachers' Colleges of Jamaica, as well as all other relevant stakeholders need to ensure that the teaching profession gets back to a place of attractiveness, where working conditions are favourable, so that we all can advance the agenda of educating our people for a better tomorrow.

Oneil Madden

Oneil.MADDEN@uca.fr

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