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DHTA, teacher and pupils of the Roseau Primary with magazine
DHTA, teacher and pupils of the Roseau Primary with magazine

Teachers are having a tough time, here in Dominica and elsewhere in the world. As an example of that fact, TIME magazine, of the United States, published a cover on 24 September 2018 with these words superimposed on a middle- aged teacher sitting in her classroom: "I Work 3 Jobs and Donate Blood Plasma to Pay the Bills. This Is What It's Like to Be a Teacher in America".

That TIME magazine cover caught our attention immediately and as we read on we were amazed that conditions in the teaching profession in the world's top economy were as bad as it is in Dominica. But teachers here are hardly complaining whereas their counterparts in the US are protesting and making noise for better wages.

To further illustrate the working conditions of teachers in the US, TIME quoted Hope Brown, 52, a U.S. History teacher at Woodford County High School in Versailles, Kentucky:

"I've been teaching for 16 years, and I make about $55,000 a year. I work an extra job in guest services at Rupp Arena, sometimes multiple nights a week, making $9 an hour. My husband and I also started a business leading historical tours in the summer.

"Right now, I have a broken tooth that I can't afford to have fixed. I've had to take a sick day before because I didn't have enough gas to make it to school. I donated plasma twice before my first pay day this year just for gas money. I was really embarrassed when I first had to start doing that because I think of myself as a professional. I have a master's degree."

And amazingly she added: "I love what I do. My kids are fabulous. There is not another job where you could have as many highs, as many lows, as much connection, as much challenge as there is in teaching. I can't think of another job — maybe an ER doctor, I don't know — where I can get the feeling that I do from teaching".

So teachers love their jobs but the world under-appreciates the work that teachers do. That's why UNESCO instituted World Teachers Day in 1994 to create awareness of these problems affecting teachers, problems that demotivate teachers such as low wages and poor working condition as well as the scarcity of trained teachers in our classrooms especially in developing countries.

This year the Theme of WTD 2018 is "The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher." According to UNESCO this theme has been chosen to remind the global community that the right to education cannot be achieved without the right to trained and qualified teachers.

"Teachers are key to achieving inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Education transforms lives: it is the driver of economic and social development; it promotes peace,tolerance, and social inclusion; and is key to eradicating poverty and achieving personal fulfilment", UNESCO stated in its promotional materials for World Teachers Day 2018.

But paradoxically, policy makers here and in other countries continue to treat teachers as if they cost a dime a dozen. They seem oblivious to the fact that teachers are absolutely important to the attainment of good quality education that is essential for achieving the level of sustainable development that we desperately need.

Nevertheless, many persons believe that our education system itself has simply not worked well enough to ensure adequate levels of social and economic development. Though we have made some progress in terms of children's access to secondary education and our students have performed creditably at the regional examinations, the overall quality of our education remains quite low.

As educators and teachers prepare to observe World Teachers Day 2018, on 5th October, we suggest that these are among some of the issues that should occupy their minds.

Another issue that the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT), in particular, must be concerned about is the pervasive violence in schools. Indeed, many teachers will admit that coping with ill-discipline in schools is one of the foremost challenges of the teaching profession in Dominica and other countries of the region.

Another concern for teachers at this juncture in our development is the crisis affecting boys. Educationists say "a spiraling percentage" of adolescent teenage boys are displaying "intellectual lethargy and academic impotence". They claim that a large number of male students show more susceptibility to the drug culture than girls; boys are also suspended more frequently and generally view schools and education as a waste of time.

While educators seemed to be ecstatic about the results of this year's Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate they have apparently forgotten the fact that the analysis shows that boys are continuing to underperform at all levels of the education system and this was rather obvious in the 2018 CSEC results. It also seems obvious that we have fallen into the promotion trap where we highlight the success of a few students and conveniently ignore the fact that many students, especially boys, are unable to obtain a passing grade at secondary school.

These deviant behaviour patterns among boys, experts argue, is partly due to the fact that the number of male teachers in the education system is now abysmally low. Educators are becoming increasingly aware of the need for the presence of many more male teachers in order to turn around boys' underachievement.

So what are the reasons for men's avoidance of the classroom? Poor salaries tops the list. Many males aspire to higher paying jobs commensurate with the responsibilities and stress of teaching.

As the DAT prepares to observe World Teachers Day 2018, we hope teachers explore solutions to the main problems affecting the education system in Dominica. These issues include decent working environments, better living wages, equal pay and equal rights for women and on-going professional development.


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