JTA SHOOTING ITSELF IN THE FOOT

The Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) appears to be its own worst enemy.

On Sunday, May 26, in a column headlined Educating Ronnie on Education, I wrote that Jamaica’s vision for a reformed education system should involve two simple objectives namely:

1.    Ensuring all teachers are properly qualified

2.    Allowing Teachers to teach without interference including from the political executive and standardized testing.

In an attempt to show that this simple vision, if attained, works, I examined the successful education revolution in Finland.  Perhaps I didn’t make it clear that this proposed vision was a Jamaican vision and not only one for the Government.  Maybe the headline distracted.

I write this because the behaviour of the JTA would tend to suggest it believes that teachers have no contribution to make to the achievement of this vision.  In that Sunday column, I pointed out the first step towards the achieving of that vision could never be the reduction of teachers’ motivation.  Teachers, whose training ought to have equipped them to think this thing through, should equally understand that neither hostile posturing nor puerile name calling qualify as that elusive first step.

So, instead of a joint effort to develop this much needed vision, we see former JTA President Doron (proof-reader: please make sure you retain that “D”) Dixon’s pathetic attempt to characterise the JTA/Education Ministry dispute as one between a “mongrel dog” and a “lion hearted cat”.  Worse, he guaranteed his audience that teachers would never allow any “mongrel dog” to “rush” them.  Is he really teaching Jamaican children somewhere?  Is there any wonder students frequently resort to violence to resolve their disputes?

The Education Minister says he must work within IMF constraints (in my opinion, wrong jungle) to try to do what can be done for teachers.  The teachers have argued that the entitlements were contractual conditions under which they accepted being paid at 80 per cent of their market value.  Everybody knows that I believe teachers’ need more not less motivation.  But the reason for that has NOTHING to do with any contractual arrangement.  It’s because this is a sine qua non of education’s much needed systemic reform.

The purpose of my proposed increased motivation is to get to the first objective above namely “Ensuring all teachers are properly qualified”.  It has NOTHING to do with whatever may be on paper anywhere in any contract.  That contract doesn’t, in my opinion, permit lazy, unqualified teachers to sit on their collective backsides and scream “it’s in the contract!”  Even in the terms of the contract itself, the consideration for the entitlements is alleged to have been an acceptance of payment at 80% of market value.  Whose market value?  What’s the market value of a lazy, incompetent, unqualified teacher who rarely turns up to class yet holds regular extra lessons for a separate fee?  That teacher is being paid at 150% of HIS market value AND receiving additional entitlements.  No vision has room for such a travesty.

This is the context within which the Minister is blindly implementing IMF strictures yet trying to see what he can do for teachers.  Teachers want no change.  So, there’s disagreement.  Teachers resort to gutter politics of disgusting name-calling.  Within the perceived restrictive framework and with the best will in the world, how can the Education Minister, in these circumstances, continue to try to help people like Doron to somehow overcome IMF dictates?  As the great Peter MacIntosh wrote:

                   “(Sorry fi Mawga Dog)
Mawga dog tu’n around bite you
(jump outta fryin pan)
you bound to jump inna fire yeah.

Paul Adams, another JTA Past President, revealed his Olympic level talent for calumny and made matters worse. He’s reported to have snidely suggested stances taken by the education ministry could possibly be explained by the temporary influence of cocaine.  Really Paul?  Seriously?  What have YOU been smoking?  Not only is Paul Adams a former JTA President but he’s now Principal of the Hughie Morrison High School in Montego Bay.  Is this how you teach your students to behave Paul?  Is this the example you expect from High School Principals?

How does this advance Jamaica towards the vision I have identified?  Shame on both Doron and Paul.  Shame, shame, shame.

                   “See you come from country in a country truck
Tell me say you a look a likkle wuk.
Guys go weh from dey
Me no wan’ fe see you ’round here.

But, worst of all, the varied reactions of current JTA President Clayton Hall, given multiple opportunities to do the right thing, have only established that lack of vision is common to both parties in this dog fight. The Gleaner reported on May 28: “JTA President Clayton Hall has…dissociated his association from the comments made on the platform.” Disassociated?  Somebody must be high!  It seems to me that, at the very least, unrestricted condemnation is what’s required.

Another May 28 Gleaner report opened with: “President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) says he has apologised to education minister Ronald Thwaites, for offensive comments made by senior members of the organisation.”  Well, whoop-de-doo!  This takes the year’s pusillanimous prize.  Look here, young Clayton, this isn’t a political issue.  This is a matter of simple manners which nobody needs to go to school to learn.  The wanton, blatant abuse requiring apology took place publicly.  Every one of our school children has access to it.  Rev Ronnie wasn’t the only person abused.  He wasn’t even the most important object of the abuse.   In addition to the sensibilities of all well-thinking Jamaicans and the morals of impressionable students everywhere, two important Jamaican national institutions were abused.  Take a guess, Clayton, which two?  Quick answer.  No googling now.  They were the Jamaican Government and the Jamaica Teachers Association.  This is not permissible as part of the game.  This is not civilized.  This achieves nothing.

                   “Me jus’ a do wha’ me hafi do
Me no ha nothin’ more fi do with you
And if you know wha’ me know
You galang go tu’n poppy-show.

In trying to advance their personal lot, teachers have set the process back another decade.  God help our children.  What’s required to return to square one is an unqualified public apology to the Education Minister and to our Jamaican children.  It should be followed by a separate and obsequious public apology to every “schooler”; every parent; and to the Jamaican nation.  Haughty dismissals of the topic as non-agenda items won’t do.  This isn’t something for Rev Ronnie’s personal aggrandisement.  This is something Jamaica needs to ensure respect for its national institutions remains intact.

Peace and Love

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