Gov’t must do the right thing - Retired teacher wants more for current educators

March 09, 2023
Teachers gather across from the Ministry of Finance and Public Service on Heroes Circle to protest the latest wage offer.
Teachers gather across from the Ministry of Finance and Public Service on Heroes Circle to protest the latest wage offer.

A retired educator who claimed to have survived two life-threatening encounters while teaching at one of Kingston's most volatile schools is calling on the Government to "do the right thing and pay teachers better".

In the first incident, the 73-year-old, who wished not to be named, said she was attacked by a relative of a student she scolded for being disruptive in class the previous day.

"As I was walking towards the school gate, I saw the boy and a man standing beside him. It was me and group of teachers walking when the little boy pointed me out. The man who claimed to be his uncle gave me three solid box at the gate in front of everybody and say mi fi low him family alone," recalled the veteran educator who served for 42 years.

"I was so shocked that I stood there for almost two minutes without saying a word. Even though my colleagues were talking to me I couldn't hear them. I also nearly peed on myself," said the woman of the early morning incident that occurred in the mid-1990s. Despite this, she said that she continued teaching out of love but was soon forced into early retirement after another brush with danger.

"I started teaching from very early and I spent more than three decades in the classroom, but it all came to an abrupt end one day when I was trying to settle a dispute between a parent and another colleague. The father then decided that 'di teacha gal a tek side' and pulled a ratchet knife ready to stab me up. The school guard had to run to my rescue. That experience was the final straw for me," she said.

The retired educator said she was saddened by the ongoing stand-off in wage negotiations between the Government and delegates of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA).

According to a JTA media release yesterday, 346 out of 574 delegates voted against the compensation package of the Government at a special conference at The Mico University College in Kingston.

"It is really sad because the finance minister himself could not become a government official today without the nurturing and guidance from us teachers. The Government must do the right thing and pay the teachers better because we are at risk every day, just like the police and soldiers, and especially with how these students are behaving now. They are bringing all sorts of weapons to school, guns, knives and making bottle bombs," the woman said.

Her sentiments were echoed by a primary school teacher who also spoke to THE STAR. The teacher works at a Corporate Area institution that has developed a reputation for violence.

"Class control is paramount on the part of teachers, and if you allow one child to appear like they can have their way in the classroom, you've opened a canister of worms for the others. Teaching at a school in a volatile community really requires much from educators. Personally, I have not experienced violence on a life-threatening level, but I've had colleagues who have been contested by primary age students (age six to 12) with foreign objects to include, but not limited to, furniture, stones, stationery, hell-bent on causing serious harm," said the teacher.

Another teacher who was booted from a high school following a brawl several years ago was also adamant that teachers are to be properly compensated for the difficulties they face in the classrooms.

"Imagine going to work every day to teach aspiring doctors, politicians, lawyers, musicians, police officers, soldiers etc, and you are in the classroom worrying about what to eat when you get home because the salary is simply not enough? How then can you expect teachers to perform effectively when something as basic as that is their major concern?" the teacher asked.

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