The Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) are having a face off over one of the most heated issues in the history of the JTA/MoE relationship. The MoE fired warning shots at teachers by signalling a review of teacher’s study leave arrangements and another shot was fired at teachers and school leaders through the release of a damning report on the state of schools via an inspection by the National Education Inspectorate. The report criticised many areas of school life and labelled many schools as failing. It is also being suggested that a teacher competency index be established.
Many people are questioning the timing of the release of the inspectorate report as it is one year late and conveniently coincides with the Government’s decision to review teacher’s study leave. It is being said that the Government has brought out the spin doctors and is planning an all out assault on teachers.
Many spoken to are not surprised and some persons say they saw this coming as the current administration seems set on laying the blame of the failures of the education system at the feet of teachers.
We spoke to a MoE insider who we will not name, who said, ‘The failures in the education system is not the fault of teachers but the incompetence of successive Ministers of Education and the ministry team (including the current one) at dealing with the issues of overcrowded classrooms, lack of resources in schools and rampant corruption within the ministry of appointing principals and other officials in jobs overlooking much more competent and qualified people. He said, ‘The real issue is not the teachers but the abuse that teachers have been putting up with for years, the level of assault and the poor income.’ He said, ‘I will show you how interested Portia Simpson and Minister Thwaites are in leading the country and putting education first.’ He continued, ‘In these difficult times they are asking for teacher who are on far less of an income to give up the small benefits they have when the ministers who are amongst the most highly paid in the land refuse the lead by example and take a pay cut.’
Another person spoken to said, ‘ Don’t you think it is sad, Portia Simpson believes it is okay to spend 60 million on new vehicles and refuse to take a pay cut, when the country is in so much debt. She expects everyone else to carry the burden except her and her team. Portia Simpson I do believe when you say you put people first, but that is after you sort yourself out. It is so sad.’
Many agree that a review may be carried to see how better the system and the benefit could be improved.
‘At a time when teaching morale is low and we have another ‘crap’ government leading the country, we could have done without this’, said Joseph Brown, a recently retired teacher.
The JTA remains silent on the matter instead, have decided to speak to its members first.