Over the weekend, I read a couple of articles that focused on the plight of teachers in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The articles sprung from a recent press conference held by the SVG Teachers Union. One in particular, focused on health concerns of teachers. The Union executive described the conditions under which many teachers were working, the fact that their informal survey suggested that many of our teachers were falling ill and have died within the last decade.
I was initially alarmed when I read this and then disheartened. Firstly, I immediately empathized with the teachers because I am one and I have both experienced and witnessed the toll that the profession can take on those who are called to it. We are often like the millerâs daughter â expected to spin straw into gold â but we get very little reward. We sacrifice much to ensure the success of our students. We are often second parents, counsellors, motivators, role models in terms of the impact we have on our studentsâ lives. This is immeasurable, which is why I have always felt that we cannot be fully compensated for the work we actually do. Still, some effort should be made to close the gap.
My second reaction came when I read the comments under the piece. Most of them expressed callous indifference to the assertions, some felt that the Union was exaggerating, and others âhelpfullyâ suggested that the sick teachers leave the job if it was too much for them. Some actual teachers weighed in with their âwho feels it knows it,â responses and they are correct.
Teaching (in Vincy especially) is a labour of love and, ironically, there is often little love for the teacher in it. It is not something for the weak of heart or poor in spirit. I have heard folks sing the praises of their (primary and secondary) teachers and express appreciation for the impact of the profession, but in the same breath, say they could never be teachers because teaching is too stressful and the financial rewards were not worth it. I wondered what would have happened to them had their teachers decided to phone it in. I often wonder what would happen to our society if the majority of our teachers woke up one morning and decided to call it quits, permanently, seeking more lucrative less deleterious professions.
I empathize with the teachers and hope that the right ears could hear their plight and address their concerns. I also hope, against hope, that the wider Vincentian public would recognize and appreciate the essential role that teachers play in the lives of their children. The profession is much too important have its practitioners experiencing such mental and physical dis-ease. Think about it, do you really want the person with whom your child spends 6 hours a day over tired, mentally and physically exhausted and not up to the best of his/her health because of his/her work conditions? What quality of teaching would your child receive?
If the people of Vincy truly care about the quality of education their children receive then they should rally behind the well-being of their teachers. It just makes sense.