Thursday 9 April, 2020

390 teachers resigning within six months no big deal, says Samuda

Karl Samuda (file photo)

Karl Samuda (file photo)

Following claims of significant teacher shortages affecting schools across the island, the Ministry of Education has revealed that some 390 public sector teachers resigned from their posts over a six-month period.

In speaking at a media conference on Thursday, Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for Education, Youth and Information, Karl Samuda, said the teachers who resigned between September last year and February 5 this year, represented only over one per cent of the island's teachers, arguing that it was not a great cause for concern.

"That on the face of it may be alarming, but we have a total teaching population of just under 24,000. This amount comprises about 1.6 per cent (of the teacher population). This has impacted on the ministry, but it is not at a level to get alarmed," he said.

Samuda added that the teachers who resigned were mostly employed to secondary schools. He added that while some of the teachers migrated, some went to take up other job vacancies within the country.

To address the consequent teacher shortage, the minister said several measures have been implemented, including the re-engagement of retired teachers and increased teaching sessions.

"One of them we announced sometime earlier, and that was the re-engagement of retired teachers, and 51 of those have been taken on board. We have also allowed for the engagement of final-year student teachers in accredited institutions during their practical experience on a temporary basis.

"Schools have deployed staff and/or increased their teaching sessions. Schools have chosen to merge smaller classes to reduce teacher demand, and there has been increased use of ICT (technology) through the videotaping of lessons," Samuda indicated.

The minister said a programme aimed at "twinning" schools has been successful, and the education ministry will seek to further expand it this year.

"There has also been a sharing of expertise by teachers through the twinning of schools. We made the announcement last year and we are so far successful. It is very encouraging and we are hoping to increase the number of schools (which are involved)," he explained, adding that over 50 schools nationally are currently twinned.

"We are seeking to double that this year, as we find that that particular arrangement assists the particular schools involved, and it really enables them to get an image of the institutions where they are originally registered, and the ones that they are twinned with. So all in all, it’s a win win situation that is working very well," suggested Samuda.

He further said persons with first degrees will also be engaged to fill vacancies in schools to help address the shortages.

"The ministry will allow schools to recruit pre-trained graduates and individuals with at least a first degree in areas of expertise that are short in supply. For science and mathematics teachers, these are in short supply," he explained.

According to Samuda, $70 million will be provided in the budget for 2020-2021 for scholarships for teacher training.

Last week, from interviews with Owen Speid, President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and educators whose names were not published, Loop News highlighted concerns about what was described as a chronic teacher shortage that has been affecting the local education system, primarily due to increased teacher migration.

"You have teachers migrating rapidly; it's like almost on a weekly basis that we are losing teachers from our system," Speid, a school principal, told Loops News last week.

He said in some cases, his fellow administrators have been forced to hire teachers regardless of their areas of specialisation, just to maintain discipline within the classrooms.

He claimed too, that in some schools, the situation has forced administrators to be assigned to teach classes, and other educators pointed to instances where, for example, English teachers are manning mathematics classes, due to acute shortages of mathematics teachers.   

Speid called on the Education Ministry to urgently address the challenges being faced by the teachers, to reduce the problem of teacher migration.

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