Jasford Gabriel - JTA President 2020-2021

JTA wants concession for teachers towards equipment, home retrofitting

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Jasford Gabriel, is of the view that the Government should provide some form of concession for teachers for them to acquire electronic devices in light of the fact that they have been forced to conduct classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really believe so,” Gabriel said during a recent interview with Loop News.

The JTA boss explained that the association was heading into negotiations with the government and "it’s an item (a technology concession) that is up for discussion.

“We understand what COVID would have caused (fallout in Government’s revenues) but claim items would have gone out for the teachers to submit items. We need to submit that claim before the end of this calendar year and certainly one of the items there would be the book/software and technological allowance. We already have an allowance there but it won’t be adequate; COVID was not factored into the mix when provision was made for that,” Gabriel pointed out.

He also noted that there is now an additional expense for teachers, the majority of whom have decided to conduct their online classes from home. Reports are that roughly 4,000 of the 25,000 public school teachers conduct their classes from the schools to which they are assigned. The others do so from home.

“We also hear the teachers speaking about the fact that they need to set up a space at home where they work from to mirror what looks like a classroom so we can make it more engaging and attractive to the students and so we need to be making some provision for the teachers, both in terms of the technology and in terms of retrofitting that kind of space,” the JTA president stated.

Gabriel’s call for a concession for teachers on electronic devices has come at a time when leading private sector organisations, including the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association as well as the Business Process Outsourcing Sector have called on the government to remove the duties and taxes on devices such as tablets, laptops and smart phones for a period of two years. The groups note that hundreds of thousands of children are without a device that would allow them to continue their education online, a position they argue is untenable.

Meanwhile, Gabriel said the training of teachers in online teaching must be ongoing.

“We have to continue to train our teachers. They went on a crash programme after March (when schools were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic) to get familiar with the Learning Management System that is out there and so it’s a big transitioning from face-to-face teaching to engage our students meaningfully in a physical space. Though they have been very keen on the training and would have acquired many more skills in terms of the repertoire that they possess, it is something that has to be ongoing so that we can keep our students engaged and interested in the process,” said Gabriel.

He is encouraging all stakeholders including parents, teachers and students to be mindful as the country goes through the pandemic, to take the best decisions in the interest of education not least among which is safety and practicing of all the safety protocols.

“We are transitioning into a new era as far as education is concerned and opportunities abound in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re seeing a big push now in terms of internet access, devices for students, training for teachers, empowerment for supervisors at home and so on. All these are positive things for our education system and I believe we will come out of this stronger than we were before,” Gabriel concluded.

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