Classroom of an early childhood institution. Photo by Jhada Cohen

By Jhada Cohen

The problem of teachers being ignored, underpaid, and leaving Jamaica is presently worsening. Since educators are the backbone of our nation and play a major role in moulding the brains of Jamaican youth, this is undoubtedly a national crisis.

In 2022, the Ministry of Education reported 1,538 resignations from January to September, with 854 of those being teachers who have stepped down from teaching. In the same year, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) indicated that 400 teachers left the island to teach elsewhere. The question on my mind is, Why are teachers in Jamaica leaving?

Financial Burdens

Position yourself in the shoes of a teacher who’s tasked with educating the nation while being burdened with financial worries such as paying bills and providing for their family. How does our Ministry of Education expect our teachers to be fully focused in the classroom? How do you expect to give them all to the next generation when the cost is skyrocketing? Of course they will start to weigh their options on whether or not they should migrate for better financial opportunities.

Additionally, with teachers being underpaid and leaving the country, one should think about what will happen to our children. When our educators seek opportunities elsewhere due to a lack of support and financial security, the education of our children suffers immeasurably and with that their future. As a result of the migration of teachers, more stress is placed on those who remain, academic performance suffers, and learning is hindered.

Jacqueline McKenzie Cohen, teacher of Annunciation Early Childhood Institution, prepares for class. Photo by Jhada Cohen.

Additionally, Leighton Johnson, President of the JTA, is hinting that at the end of the current academic year even more teachers will leave the country. The question that parents should be asking our government is: what are you going to do to mitigate this problem?

No More Lip Service

To Fayval Williams, our Minister of Education & Youth – we cannot allow the problems teachers are facing to remain unchecked. The Ministry ought to step up, address these challenges, and stop leaving empty promises.

Enough with the lip service. Education is an important aspect of Jamaica’s quality of life. Measures must be implemented to support our teachers. Firstly, prompt action is needed to guarantee that all educators are paid fairly and on schedule. This entails clearing up any administrative roadblocks that cause payments to be delayed and giving schools the tools they need to fulfill their financial responsibilities. As the JTA president said, “This is not slavery. Fair wages are due for a fair month’s work… ..One teacher not paid is one teacher too many”.

Secondly, it’s necessary to work toward providing incentives for educators to remain in Jamaica and support the development of our country. In addition to providing competitive pay, the Ministry of Education should look into forming alliances with businesses in the private sector and with foreign organizations. Putting money into our schools helps our children thrive, but it also builds a stronger, more prosperous Jamaica.

Jamaicans, we need to hold our government accountable, because we cannot afford for our teachers and students to suffer. Our teacher deserves nothing less than the best for providing education to the nation’s children. These issues must be addressed head-on and long-term solutions found. I urge the Ministry of Education to place a high priority on the well-being of our educators and students since they are the future of Jamaica. Now is the moment to take action.

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