” The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” — 1 Corinthians 12:21 and 25-27
Let us just call a spade a spade: The Government is marginalising our teachers. Apparently, if you are not in the discipline of mathematics or the sciences, then you are mediocre and bad; because your subject area is not in demand, according to Ronald Thwaites on Nationwide Radio. He claimed that all teachers — good, bad, and mediocre (inclusive of those not in demand) — are being paid the same, which quite frankly should not be the case. But do not just take my words for it ( http://nationwideradiojm.com/thwaites-calls-on-govt-to-pay-specialized-teachers-at-a-higher-rate/?fbclid=IwAR1CMpWIakRo-VM8mfZ45VqQfaXhvChZovT_eCaf7iJs8JxVy0vd7IaR_wo).
Certainly, he is not the Government, but he did well to represent the People’s National Party (the Opposition) as their spokesman in stating their collective belief. Quite frankly, his rhetoric is not short of being biased and discriminatory to the teachers of other disciplines. But my question is: Were the teachers of mathematics and the sciences not already awarded incentives by way of full scholarships?
In 2016 the Ministry of Education announced that it would implement an incentive programme in the form of scholarships for teachers of mathematics and the sciences. The estimated cost was $412 million in the first year of implementation, and a total of $1.2 billion to complete training the first batch of pre-service and in-service teachers ( https://moey.gov.jm/ministry-provide-400-math-science-teachers-scholarships). The ministry then noted that it had successfully awarded 440 scholarships, valued at $330 million, for the 2017/18 academic year; and two popular institutions which participated in this initiative were The Mico University College and Shortwood Teachers’ College.
Further, in 2018, the National Mathematics Coordinator Dr Tamika Benjamin said discussions were under way towards increasing the number of scholarships offered to student-teachers pursuing science majors at the tertiary level. And now, in 2019, Thwaites is seeking even more benefits. But to what end?
Already in the schools there is a tug of war among the various subjects. The current trend, at least where I worked and based on my friends’ account at other schools, students choose to attend the classes considered important while abandoning all else. Prime example, my students have often said, “Sir, I can’t come to class today because I have a maths fest,” or ”Sir, I can’t come to class today because I am doing my labs.” Certainly, I allow them at times. However, I have seen waves of students going to math fests and other activities, on and off campus, at times outside of the scheduled mathematics class time. Before you call me melodramatic or exaggerative, these students are not just eleventh graders, but students in grades 10 and nine too. It got so bad, that I often had to put off assessment because more than 90 per cent of the class was unavailable. This is a result of the school’s and Government’s emphasis on mathematics and the sciences.
Frankly speaking, with this new incentive they are adding insult to injury and further cementing the belief that other subjects are inferior. This personally hits home because, as a teacher of foreign languages, already there are students and parents alike who do not see the relevance of the languages. In fact, the same can be said for religious education, social studies, drama, visual arts, physical education, and a few more. But let me play the devil’s left-hand man for a minute, I have never gone to a store and been told to work out the f(x) or Tan/Cos/Sin of my purchase. Neither have I ever been to a restaurant, locally or abroad, and had to ‘Pythagorised’ or ‘algebratise’ my order. Honestly, I do not mean to come off as belligerent or condescending, but what I am asking is: Why the bias? Why the shade — discriminating against other disciplines and teachers? We are already losing teachers to France, China, and other Asian countries, the US, and some Latin-American countries. But I am not seeing any incentives put out for us. Should this be interpreted as our leave being irrelevant?
There is no discipline nor teacher which is greater than any other. We all form part of a collective, a body, which functions as a whole. Hence, where preference is given, and other members of the collective/body is ignored, what do you think will happen?
Imagine for a minute if we were to remove a finger and toenail or the hairs off our body because they are not as important. What do you think will happen? If our leaders are not careful we will soon have a greater exodus of teachers in general, thus having only teachers of mathematics and the sciences in the schools. What will happen then?
Furthermore, even with the incentives being allotted to teachers of mathematics and the sciences, they are still leaving. Although the scholarships, for example, bonded them, there are presumed recruiters who buy out these bonds, as stated by Ronald Thwaites earlier this year ( http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/thwaites-education-system-lost-over-100-maths-science-teachers-since-january_160480). But what do they do? Rather than revamp the whole initiative, they decide to give out more incentives, and this time more pay along with resources, and so forth. When will the leaders understand that simply increasing the money is not what will keep our teachers. Moreover, this bias is bound to create a greater rift among our teacher body and student body.
All in all, I am against the singling out of any discipline and gifting individuals within this discipline with advantages which rank them above their colleagues in other disciplines. Mr Opposition and Mr Government, you need to take another look at our teachers, re-evaluate your methods, and acknowledge our plights. We want smaller classroom sizes, better response from the Government in managing the changing generation because every rule implemented now favours the students and slaps the teachers in the face. We also desire more protection for teachers who are abused by students, and clearly more money is always appreciated. Although there is more, this would be a good start.
Again, do not marginalise our teachers, lest you lose far more.
Romane Elliston is an educator, writer, and motivational speaker. He is also an activist for young people, at-risk boys, change, and enlightenment. Send comments to the Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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