January 22, 2021
Jasford Gabriel
Jasford Gabriel

The promise of bigger pay cheques could lure many of the island's top teachers to take up jobs overseas, despite COVID-19, which appears to be picking up steam.

The United States of America on Monday surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, which means that one in every 820 Americans has now died from the virus.

Jasford Gabriel, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), said that the country continues to suffer tremendous loss as some of its most talented teachers have fled to what they would consider 'greener pastures'.

"The matter of teacher migration continues to plague our system, to the extent that we continue to lose our most qualified and best teachers to overseas markets. The reality is that the number one driving force is the salary and working conditions of our teachers, and so it continues to force many of them out of the Jamaican system due to that sense of need," he said.

The president expressed his views after THE WEEKEND STAR reached out to get his comment on a recent advertisement by International Student Affairs Travel Services (ISAT) seeking qualified teachers to work in the USA.

Adian Charlton, director of ISAT, sees the recruitment of teachers to travel oversees under the programme as being beneficial to Jamaica as a whole.

"The main purpose of the programme is to broaden teachers' knowledge and expertise so when they return to Jamaica, they can share their values with students based on the experience they got overseas," he said


Charlton said that ISAT is in search of 70 to 100 qualified teachers, who are willing to venture into the USA for the upcoming academic year. Annual salary, he said, ranges between US$35,000 (J$5 million) and US$52,000 (J$7.5 million ), based on the teacher's qualifications.

At the lowest level, a teacher with a bachelor's degree in education earns a salary of about $1.3 million yearly, and 515,400 in other allowances, in Jamaica.

Gabriel said he is hoping that teachers will be deterred from fleeing, as the profession is lacking expertise in pivotal areas.

"We are hoping that with the compensation review that is taking place and the upcoming negotiations, the teaching profession will be made more attractive, because education has to be the backbone of any country that intends to be progressive," he said.

"Our quality of teaching is being affected because when teachers leave, it takes away from some crucial areas in which we are already short of teachers, like math and science," Gabriel added.

The president of the JTA said that the migration of teachers from the classroom is likely to continue, despite the ravages of COVID-19.

"Once the conditions are right, in terms of wages and work environment, I think they will make the sacrifices, because it is just not working out for some of them here in Jamaica," Gabriel said. He said that with COVID-19 now rampant, "There might be some amount of hesitancy with some of the teachers, so the pickup rate might not be as high, in comparison to previous years." However, Charlton said that applications have been flowing in from teachers who are desirous of a better payday.

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