Our Readers' Opinions
October 16, 2015
ACT like you really value teachers!

Editor: Teachers and public servants definitely deserve a one-month tax-free salary, in lieu of salary increases since 2011. While some label teachers and union leaders as ‘greedy’, ‘impractical’ and ‘political’, the fact remains that the demand is reasonable and just. Our strike action is justified and lawful in registering our dissatisfaction.{{more}}

It is clear that many do not understand the real value of teachers to the development of this nation. They remember to curse us when we decide to take industrial action for a just cause. And of course, they value us when we can toe their political line to help them win elections. Others are only forced to remember us when we decide to take action, such as staying away from school in protest against injustice. They say “how my children would be taught…who would supervise them…how they go prepare fo’ exams…?” Well, stop being selfish and consider that teachers need to be justly compensated. Some parents cannot even manage their one child at home, but teachers have to directly supervise at least 30 at any given time. Not only are we teachers, but we have to fulfill the role of parent, counsellor, pastor, lawyer, judge, motivational speaker, entertainer etc. And our job does not end at the close of the school day.

Many teachers have to endure insults and even violence from children. In some cases, we work with little support from parents and guardians. Our working environment is not always conducive to teaching/learning. Despite salary freeze and trying conditions, we have been very patient. It is important to note too that not all teachers use teaching as a ‘stepping stone’. We do not teach because “there is no other job” or because we “can’t do better”. We have chosen to do it or to stay in it because we love it. We love people. We love to help and see people succeed.

In speaking of the real value of teachers, Kevin Carey in the Education Trust sums it up well by telling us that we “depend on them to educate our children, to produce the intellectual capital that is the foundation of our future as a society.” Who do you think is paramount in setting the academic foundation for the doctor, lawyer, farmer, and politician? Well…it is the teacher!

The value of the teacher must not be underestimated. Sweet talk, empty promises and worst yet, insults just would not work. We should be tangibly rewarded for our good service. Given that things are hard, let the national pie be shared fairly. You should not have some ‘nothing-doers’ receiving handsome salaries in addition to telephone allowance, entertainment allowance, duty free allowance and travel allowance, when the basic salary of some teachers can’t even take care of their monthly expenses.

It is often said that the standard of the teaching profession should be lifted (and I agree). However, there is a connection between high standard and salary enhancement. A report by the World Bank, in collaboration with the OECS Secretariat, indicated that teacher compensation topped the list for teacher issues in the OECS. The report also stated that “teachers’ salaries are comparatively lower than other jobs and this makes teachers leave teaching to join better paying jobs.” The authorities must, therefore, realize that one major way of attracting and retaining qualified teachers is to compensate us fairly.

Some years ago, I asked a group of students: “Who would like to be a teacher?” “Only one student opted for the noble profession. I asked why more students did not want to be teachers. I got a bold response – “Miss, teachers don’t make money…Miss, me ain’t ha’ the patience.” Such a response should help you to understand some of the challenges of being a teacher. We deserve better – much better. The Government must make our case a priority and deal justly with us, in a practical and respectful manner. Our demands are reasonable. Show regard for our stalwart service. Act like you really value teachers.

Ann-Marie Ballantyne

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