By Dr. Dwayne Dyce, CEO Education Solutions International Inc.
September 4, 2022
On September 5, 2022 the teachers and students, along with many other educational workers, in Jamaica, make their way back to schools to start the 2022-23 school year. For some, this is a bitter experience and sour expectations because of the roller coaster ride they have been on with hundreds, if not thousands of teachers leaving the island for what they considered "greener pastures." The large exodus of the island's educational professionals should be of concern to all, not just the leaders in the education system. This should be the concern of all stakeholders, from leaders to students and parents in every community in the country because education is most effectively transmitted through intentional cultural networks within those caring communities.
Communities that shape schools and schools that are driving forces behind the transformation of the communities make a major difference in the development of students because they see the importance of long-term values that are acceptable not just within the community, but are essential for the students to make a difference globally. And so, teachers who are leaving the education system of a country may create a void that is not easily filled by others. However, there are certain hopeful thoughts that I think our educational leaders, our principals and teachers, our students and their parents, and other stakeholders can begin to forge with the opportunities that may be afforded to them at this moment.
We are Not Alone
In most countries, education and educational services are going through major changes
to keep up with the current trends politically, economically, and socially. Take for example, in the US (we always reference the US), the reason Jamaica is relieved of so many teachers is because many teachers are quitting in many States and the need is there to fill those positions, even to the detriment of any other education system. In NYC alone, thousands of teachers either quit or change careers during these latter stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers in these circumstances cited many reasons for leaving the profession from feeling burnt out to being more independent to start a small business, which they have been wanting to engage in for however long. For years, teachers have been moving from place to place all over the US, in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
The pandemic did not make it easier for any country that may be trying to control the education sector with the same old ways of thinking and boundaries. During and after the toughest stages of the pandemic, we, as educational leaders and personnel spent so much of our time playing "catch up," and in the process, developed a sort of short sightedness when it comes to looking at directions in which to proceed so that educational procedures and retention of teachers are taken care of adequately. Developed countries, like the US, are in a better position to lure teachers with a little more money in salary, compared to their home countries without second-guessing the gaping hole this strategy may leave in the teachers' home countries. The more humane thing that should have been done is to stabilize developing nations and create partnerships with educational personnel so that systems in either country may not collapse.
Jamaica is among the developing nations that will still have to find a way to stabilize its education system, while at the same time, develop creative ways to empower educators to take up the charge of nation building and reconstruction of valued education. This approach may need financial commitment to the sector through grants for schools and reinforcing each school's infrastructure to provide a "face-lift" in each community. As we all know, the school is the foundation house of any community and the robust transformation of any country starts with intentional education.
Teachers are to be applauded for the selfless work that they continue to carry out even on the meager salaries that are given to them. They are the backbone of the country with their unconditional love for students and their craft while taking care of their own personal needs and families. Sometimes they are left with very little to offer themselves. Therefore, each community, each parish, and the education system needs to do a better job of taking care of each person who bears the title of teacher. We should protect the people who educate our students towards nation building and the continuation of our values.
Teach Like Never Before
To all my educator friends, principals, teachers, and anyone who are involved in the formation of our children, teach with purpose. Teach as if you were being watched by God, because you are. Many of my values I possess now are because of my Jamaican family, my Jamaican upbringing, and my Jamaican teachers. While you are experiencing the severe changes in the Jamaican education system, give yourself space to be creative and to allow your colleagues the same space to exercise creativity and autonomy in the school and each classroom. Engage students with community-based approaches that involve more parents and businesses, with more application to changes in our immediate and global environments. Ask to contribute to school-wide projects and lead with a heart of love for the country, but more so, lead because you are called upon to be a beacon of hope for our students.
Engage school leadership and regional leadership with solutions to community-based problems and know that you are good enough to be patriotic. I am imploring each educator to count the opportunities rather than focusing only on the problems we face in our education system. The Ministry of Education has its part to play, however, in each school community, try to find courage to grow your team to embrace challenges with constructive solutions.
Looking through our Education history, Jamaica has had problems before with teacher shortage and Jamaicans rose to the challenge by initiating educational systems and teacher training programs. Jamaicans embraced the challenges to create a path for their children because they loved their country. We will work through the challenges just the same and forge a way that is more robust than before.
Let's get to work with the goal of nation building through education in our hearts and in our minds.
Walk good my fellow educators.