JTA president wants greater security at schools after principal attack

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

MAGGOTTY, St Elizabeth — Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President La Sonja Harrison has blasted the Government for what she claims is inadequate funding for infrastructure and security arrangements at schools following last Friday's chopping of a primary school principal here.

"Her life is now under threat as a result of doing security work. We are in a state. The Government of this nation cannot continue to articulate that what it provides for education, what it currently spends, is adequate. It [funding] can't be [enough] if all schools across this nation does not have perimeter fencing outside of the teacher begging, the principal begging, or when you finally find yourself on the list the Ministry of Education has for infrastructural development," Harrison said on Monday during her visit to Retirement Primary School.

Reports reaching the Jamaica Observer are that last Friday about 2:00 pm, the school's principal, Ann-Marie Terrelonge, was chopped in the head during an attempt to fend off a man who had entered the school, sending teachers and students scampering.

Harrison, who was joined by principals from other St Elizabeth schools in wearing black, said educators are burdened with too many responsibilities.

"… It can't be that every school is not at least afforded a day watchman so [that] the principal and the teachers can carry out the business of teaching and learning, and the other human resource carry out their operational functions," she argued.

Harrison criticized the Government's plan to cut incentives including the remote inducement allowance.

"This [Retirement Primary] is a remote school, and to attract teachers to serve in schools like these — and many across the length and breadth of this nation — what is an additional allowance to these individuals called the remote inducement allowance currently? As well as teachers who serve in schools that are in volatile communities?" she questioned.

Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams also condemned the attack at Retirement Primary.

"…We want our schools to be safe environments for students, teachers and support staff, and this reprehensible attack undermines all the efforts being made to create safe spaces for the school community," Williams lamented.

"At the same time, I am urging school staff to exercise caution when confronting unauthorized persons who have entered your campuses. You do not know their state of mind or the extent to which they may be armed. It is better to summon the help of the security forces," she advised.

Harrison further criticized the Government for not boosting the morale of educators.

"Currently the Government, the caring Government of Jamaica is considering removing such an allowance, so we are asking of them what it is. You are not providing fencing, you are not providing watchmen, you are removing allowance. How is it then you expect the morale and the motivation of the teachers [to remain intact so as] to carry out the business?" asked Harrison.

She said schools like Retirement Primary are facing challenges with security.

"They understand all too well Mrs. Terrelonge's situation. It could have been them [educators] this morning. It could have been me this morning. I serve as principal in my substantive post at St Faith's Primary. I too have no day watchman, I too struggle with fencing challenges, and so the struggle is real… All schools need to be good schools," she said.

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