Schontal Moore | Teachers are drivers of economic development
MAYBE IF the lenses are shifted and the views recast, the powers that be will see Jamaican teachers for who they truly are – drivers of economic development and national progress. It is disheartening that teachers’ compensation in this country fails to reflect the crucial role they play in nation-building. It is time that the Government of Jamaica undergoes a transformative mind shift to prioritise the betterment of our educators.
Revisiting the perception of teachers as mere support staff and acknowledging their pivotal role in shaping the labour force are crucial steps toward paving the way for a brighter future for Jamaica.
Teachers are the pillars of our educational system, working tirelessly to prepare the labour force that propels Jamaica forward. Even if we refuse to acknowledge it, teachers’ dedication and expertise have gained recognition far beyond our shores. Jamaican teachers are sought after to fill positions in prominent schools in the United States, United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe. This demand highlights the quality and value they bring to the education sector.
In a 2022 poll conducted by the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning, of the 157 teachers surveyed, 100 per cent disclosed that low salaries is the primary reason for their decision to migrate or even contemplate doing so. The same 100 per cent agreed that improved salaries would have been the prime incentive for them to remain in teaching in Jamaica.
It is disheartening that Jamaican politicians were awarded, on average, a 200 per cent wage increase earlier this year, while teachers continue to struggle with paltry salaries. These questions then arise: what is stopping teachers from benefiting from a similar or respectable salary increase, given their role in nation-building? When will Jamaican teachers be valued for their immense contributions without having to resort to taking strike action to secure a salary increase?
MENTORS AND DREAM BUILDERS
Teachers serve as more than instructors; they are mentors who shape the lives and aspirations of their students. They go above and beyond the call of duty, not merely imparting knowledge, but also supporting students’ dreams and guiding them toward personal and professional success.
Recently, a colleague shared photographs of her and her former student at his master’s degree graduation ceremony in the United States of America. The former student, now successful in his own right, had paid for the airfare to bring his former teacher to witness his graduation from his second master’s degree programme. He attributes his growth and educational advancement to the impact that this teacher had on his life. When he was at a point in his studies when he did not think he could go further, she encouraged him and took the time to mentor him.
If a student can see the value of his teacher’s contribution, and show such gratitude, what about the Government of Jamaica? The impact of teachers goes beyond individual success stories. It extends to the collective growth and development of our nation. Recognising and rewarding teachers appropriately is not only a matter of fairness, but also an investment in the drivers of economic development.
Teachers are integral to the success of high-performing schools, contributing significantly to their development and continued excellence. While principals play a crucial role in steering schools toward high performance, it is the collective effort of teachers that ensures students receive high-quality education and are prepared for the world of work, thereby driving economic development.
Within high-performing schools, teachers play an active role in creating a positive and conducive learning environment. Their expertise, dedication, and passion for teaching empower students to excel academically and develop essential skills for the future. Teachers foster critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving abilities, nurturing well-rounded individuals who can contribute to society in meaningful ways.
Jamaican teachers are the unsung heroes behind the nation’s economic development and progress. It is high time that the Government of Jamaica acknowledges their pivotal role by re-evaluating their compensation. The Government must recognise the sacrifices teachers make and demonstrate their appreciation through improved compensation and long-term investment in the teaching profession. By recognising, honouring, and better compensating our teachers, we invest in the prosperity and well-being of our society as a whole.