Why Are So Many Teachers in Jamaica Leaving a Profession They Love?

On 30 August 2023, speaking at a Post Cabinet Press Briefing at Jamaica House, Jamaica’s Minister of Education and Youth (MOEY), Fayval Williams, sought to ease concerns about the number of teacher resignations reported just before the start of the new school year on 4 September 2023. The Minister acknowledged that an additional 400 teachers had resigned since she was last updated on 18 August but emphasized the total number of resignations from January to September 2023 was 44 percent lower than for the same period in 2022 and that 25,000 teachers remained in the system.

More Schools Advertising for Teachers

Concerns about the number of teacher resignations were prompted by reports that a number of schools had recently advertised to hire teachers for the upcoming school year. In particular, the number of advertisements in the career sections of newspapers showed a definite increase in ads to fill open positions. Between 18 June and 2 July 2023, some 300 vacant teaching positions were advertised in the Sunday Gleaner.

Teacher Resignations Are Nothing New

Teachers in Jamaica have expressed their dissatisfaction with pay levels and what they view as a lack of respect from the government for some time. Those who resign cite their desire for better pay and adequate benefits, along with greater respect for the job they do. Teachers are among the lowest-paid of Jamaica’s civil servants. Critics of the nation’s education system believe that, over time, it becomes staffed by discouraged and underpaid educators. As far back as 2012, Jamaica had a fiscal deficit for 44 of its 50 years of Independence, and this led to adjustments imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that brought severely negative impacts on the educational sector.

Other Factors Prompting Resignations

While low pay is a major reason for teacher resignations, other factors also contribute to the decision to leave the profession. These include overcrowded classes in which teachers must address many diverse types of intelligence, learning styles, and disciplinary issues without the help of teaching assistants. In addition to feeling overworked and underpaid, the lack of government support for educational institutions requires many teachers to purchase learning materials with their own money just to make sure that students have what they need in school and to mitigate any disruptions to learning.

Lack of Appreciation and Respect

The fact that Jamaican teachers are often recruited to work in other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan, indicates that teachers trained in Jamaica are valued beyond its borders. According to veteran teacher Dr. Ena Campbell, Jamaica continually turned out high-quality graduates from its teachers’ colleges in the 1940s and 1950s, but some were not hired because of the elitist and classist structuring of the school system at that time. Critics of the current educational system in Jamaica believe that history may be repeating itself in a different context marked by the failure to pay them according to their economic and social value to the country.

Photo – Deposit Photos

About the author

Staff Writer