Outgoing Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President, Winston Smith, is encouraging teachers to remain focused and hopeful, as they prepare for the upcoming 2022/23 academic year, which begins on September 5.

Speaking on Monday, day one of the 58th Annual JTA Conference, being held at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St. James, Mr. Smith said that the increased migration of teachers may pose a challenge “to those [teachers] who remain”, educators should be undaunted and rise to the task of “transforming the educational landscape.”

“I want you to transform our educational landscape by the message of hope and restoration as we seek to embark on a programme of restructuring, reorganising and lifting education in Jamaica, the land we love. Let us not be daunted or discouraged,” he said.

“We understand, appreciate, and recognise the magnitude of work that we have to do. Many of our colleagues, as it has been reported, have made that switch to greener pastures.

But whether the pasture is green, dry or whatever condition, humans cannot be contained or restrained, but have a freedom of choice and freedom of movement,” Mr. Smith added.

The three-day conference, which ends today, Wednesday, August 24, is being held under the theme ‘Revisiting the Foundation: Building our Human Capital Through Equitable Educational Opportunities’. Mr. Smith expressed confidence in the abilities of the nation’s teachers to take on the task of educating students.

“The reality is, those of us who remain may have a more challenging job. But I believe in you, our educators… my colleagues, that when the battle is hot and the conflicts soar, then the strength in you will rise like that of Paul Bogle and you will be able to sojourn through the hills and valleys and take on the mammoth task of educating our children, because we know that we are not teachers because we are swayed or enticed by money, but because we love what we do,” he added.

Meanwhile, Past President of the Caribbean Union of Teachers, Dr. Colin Greene, said equitable educational opportunities are essential for Jamaica’s long-term economic and social development and other countries within the region.

In that regard, he noted that proper investment in key educational skills is a social escalator “which brings us closer to a position of meaningful equity” in any society and should be discussed and promoted.

“National development hinges on the ability of the working population to handle technologies and to demonstrate inventiveness and adaptability, qualities that depend to a great extent on their levels of education,” Dr. Greene said