Ministry of Education strives to avoid ‘brain drain’ among teachers

Director of Education Clare Browne

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By Orville Williams

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The Department for Education says it is working to avoid any teacher shortages in classrooms caused by a nationwide “brain drain”.

This reality is currently affecting the education system in countries like Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana and the US Virgin Islands, with Jamaica in particular heading into the new school year with a corresponding shortage of teachers.

Speaking on Connecting with Dave Lester Payne hosted by Elesha George yesterday, Director of Education Clare Browne acknowledged the situation in neighboring territories, noting that the Department of Education here is doing its best to avoid a similar fate.

“When your neighbour’s house burns down, you wet yours… I learned that very early on, so we want to do everything so that we don’t get to this place.

“That’s why we had a conversation with the Antigua and Barbuda Teachers’ Union, because we want to make sure our teachers are able to continue to be in our classrooms.

“Our teachers need to be happy with the working conditions, so we need to make sure the physical facilities etc. are in good condition, the environment is safe for [them] operate,” Browne said.

Just this week, Jamaica’s Minister of Education, Fayval Williams, revealed that some 167 teachers have resigned since July, many of whom are said to have emigrated to seek better opportunities abroad.

The same has been reported in other countries as issues such as inflation, stagnant wages and poor working conditions continue to be the main drivers.

Another of the issues Browne said the ministry is addressing here urgently is the upgrading of teachers.

“One of the sticky issues teachers have I know is the whole issue of teacher upgrading, so the ministry is working as quickly as possible to ensure our teachers are upgraded.

“We want to make sure that our teachers are up to speed, that they are in their right positions and that they are getting the good salary that they should be getting. This is our main goal [and] anxiety right now, so [this will be done] a.s.a.p.

“Obviously it’s tedious [process], because you don’t want to cut anyone’s salary or anything. Cabinet would have already approved teacher upgrades, so now the administrative things are happening so that teachers can be placed in their right positions and they can receive their fair salaries,” he added.

The Director of Education has confirmed that teachers who upgraded their qualifications, but were not immediately upgraded, will receive retroactive pay for that gap, over a period of time.

He also assured that with the exception of a few teachers who left the system for personal reasons, there is no concern about a shortage of teachers ahead of the new school year.

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