(JamaicaObserver)THE new academic year kicked off on Monday with teacher shortage at some public schools, indicating to the Ministry of Education that it has to fast-track strategies to increase the numbers.
At Kingston College (KC), principal Dave Myrie said he needs to fill at least six vacancies.
“We need to find a few staff, which we are busy, busy, busy trying to find. Every week we advertise but not many people apply. Sometimes people apply but aren’t qualified for the job either. That is a challenge we are going to face because, at the end of the day, having classes without teachers is always going to be a problem because classes are going to be unmanned. That is when problems happen. We are very resilient and staff are going to fill in where they need to fill in. We might have to join classes sometimes but we are going to do what we have to do to get through,” Myrie told the Jamaica Observer during morning devotion at the almost 100-year-old all-boys’ high school in downtown Kingston.
“Even if it is daunting, we have to get through for the benefit of the students. It has taken quite a bit of planning and getting everything organised. We have had at least seven or eight resignations, people migrating. We also have persons who have been granted leave by the ministry. We have people acting and filling in but you know something? We are KC, and we are going to do what we need to do — as always. We have started off and we expect to have a great year in spite of the difficulties,” Myrie added.
When the Observer asked Education Minister Fayval Williams how many schools were impacted by teacher shortage she said she was awaiting a report from the various regions across the island before she could give a comprehensive response.
The minister said teacher shortage is a global issue at this time and stated that it is because of this why bigger and more-resourced nations are looking to countries like Jamaica with quality teachers.
“Schools are still in need of teachers, and the reason for that is the lack of notice from teachers who have resigned — so it is hard for schools to pivot when you get a resignation on the day of school or just a few days before schools opened. We were out early with a variety of strategies to help with the recruitment process. Recall as well that we have given the early approval for boards to fill positions where there is a clear vacancy. We have also given approval for boards to hire back teachers who are on retirement since 2018 and even those who are going off on retirement. They have approval, so if the persons agree to delay the retirement as a way to fill the vacancies that are there, that would be good,” Williams said.
“Another strategy of dealing with the teachers on long leave is for those teachers to come back to work and be their own replacements. They would be paid not only for the vacation but also for the time they are working. We are also working with education technology companies in terms of their solution where we have a blend of virtual and physical sessions,” she said.
“Our jobs platform that was launched will help our schools to more easily connect with those who are looking for jobs. As you know, currently, the way it is done [is that] some schools would put an advertisement in the paper; this jobs platform should be able to bring together schools that are looking for teachers and teachers who are looking for schools in a much shorter time frame. That is where we are,” added the minister who spent the day visiting primary schools in Kingston and St Andrew as it was mostly the primary schools that were in full session.
“Secondary schools do a staggering of the different grades because they have to do a more elaborate orientation that involves parents. We started off by visiting the Mountain View Primary and Infant School. It was a delight to be there. The principal reported that she has all her teachers, and all the children showed up on time and early,” Williams reported.
“We moved to the Windward Road Primary School [and] only the grade-six students were there; there were 183 of them. The principal said it was the largest cohort of grade-six students at that school. The principal also confirmed that they have everything in place and all the teachers were there. Then we went to Hope Valley Experimental — that is a school that caters to the able-bodied and those with special needs as well. The principal confirmed that all is in place. They had a smooth start to the year and all the teachers were there,” said Williams who also visited Jacks Hill Primary School.