Sun | Dec 4, 2022

Teachers need not fear JTC bill penalties, says Campbell-Rodriques

Published:Saturday | September 10, 2022 | 12:10 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

Government Senator Natalie Campbell-Rodriques has hit back at critics of the contentious Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill, saying there is nothing for teachers to fear.

“There should be no fear of large penalties for pretending to be a teacher when one is not certified to do so.

“There should be no fear of having to submit a police record to show that one is fit to be in the classroom with our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

“There should be no fear of someone reporting the matter when they know that someone has returned to Jamaica from abroad where they hold a criminal record,” she said on Friday during her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate.

Campbell-Rodriques added: “There should be no fear for asking that individuals be certified to teach our children.”

The-long-awaited bill, which will repeal certain provisions of the Education Regulations of 1980 and regulate the practice and professional conduct of teachers, is currently under review by a joint select committee of Parliament.

However, several educators, including leading executives in the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), have opposed the bill in its current state arguing that it is oppressive.

Chief among the concerns are that the bill could displace a significant number of Jamaica’s teachers due to its definition of a teacher and the requirements for qualifications as they argue that the law will also criminalise teachers and the teaching profession.

The bill defines a teacher as a person, who, having been admitted to an educational teaching programme duly recognised in the country where the person is qualified, has successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in education or its equivalent. Alternatively, the educator must have a first degree with a postgraduate diploma in education.

Licensing, registration of teachers

The JTC’s bill is seeking to establish a governing body for the profession and institute a regime for the licensing and registration of all government-paid teachers.

The council, through this bill, will have the legal power to immediately suspend and cancel the registration of a teacher who has been charged with a disqualifiable offence, which would include sexual assault, murder, pornography, robbery, and fraud.

The proposed legislation will require teachers found in breach to pay a minimum fine of $500,000, plus serve a stipulated six-month sentence in prison.

Campbell-Rodriques on Friday said that there will be no regrets when the bill is passed, even as she acknowledged being aware of the disquiet surrounding the proposed legislation.

Arguing that change is never easy, the senator said bill will revolutionise the education sector and make places of learning better and safer for children.

While noting that she is a member of the joint select committee reviewing the bill, Campbell-Rodriques further indicated that the presentations and submissions have helped to identify gaps that are now being addressed.

“Jamaica’s children deserve the best and Jamaica’s teachers deserve the best because Jamaica is the best when systems are in place to guard and protect each system for life,” she said.

JTA President La Sonja Harrison has vowed to oppose the bill in its current form, characterising it as a”noose around teachers’ necks”.

Opposition to sections of the drafted bill goes as far back as 2014, when former Prime Minister Bruce Golding described sections of the legislation, which originated under his tenure, as burdensome, unclear of its purpose in some areas, and having the potential to alienate teachers.