The issue of increased salaries for teachers is a contentious one which can hardly be ignored. It cannot be fairly or legitimately dismissed as a cry from an undeserving quarter or sector.
However, there are some very basic issues that need to be admitted when these discussions arise and factors that must be highlighted. Additionally, the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) cannot be allowed to be set aside as a most toxic element within this whirlpool of decades long debate. They must be placed exactly where they presently belong.
The JTA, certainly in my mind, was established to ensure its members were legally protected during their tenure, had opportunities for advancement educationally, but also for the purpose of being the driving group to advance the learning capacity of the nation’s students at the early, primary and secondary levels.
Over decades we have seen that very little of these basic expectations are at the forefront of the messaging, shouts and fanatic screams of the JTA.
Instead, more salary is the main cry, while accountability, results, performance and the need to turn teaching into an actual professional body have all been rabidly resisted. The fact that the JTA is regarded as a massive gang, garrison and mouthpiece militia holding both students and political administrations to ransom, is not a most enviable position of calling for curating young minds.
It cannot be that educators of the old school who undoubtedly provided great results against quite serious odds, including low salaries and dysfunctional children from anti-social backgrounds, were absolutely happy giving yeoman service with little remuneration.
The pursuit of becoming a teacher in Jamaica has never provided or guaranteed the beauty of holier than thou children from emotionally stable environments and a bank account to rival corporate
Undoubtedly, their intent was taking the rough and rude material presented, along with the finely polished stones, creating groups of precious gems to later enter and positively contribute to the society. They were not satisfied with finding substandard salaries, broken homes and stress as an acceptable reason to deflect responsibility.
The chances of one student in a class failing was a call to action with the need to find every possible solution for him/her to achieve equal or improved chances of greatness.
JTA leaders have consistently tried to pull the wool of workload to demand more money, but refused to demand their membership produce great results AND be held accountable. As a matter of fact, every time the question of better pay based on performance is brought to the fore, the JTA tries to give a six for a nine.
It is almost a case of thinking much higher wages will magically create better results on the part of teachers and our students will be the recipients of some great benefits presently being held in storage.
I will be the first one to admit teachers have not been well paid. I also demand they must do far better for our nation’s students NOW.