The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has taken steps to fill vacancies created by the resignation of 390 teachers from the school system for various reasons, between the start of the academic year in September 2019 and February 5.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, said that the number, comprising mainly high-school educators, represents 1.6 per cent of the approximately 26,000 teachers in the system.

He was speaking during a media briefing at the Ministry’s offices in Kingston on Thursday (February 13).

Mr.Samuda advised that the measures being taken include calling on the services of retired teachers, with 51 facilitated to date;temporary engagement of final-year student-teachers enrolled in accredited institutions;hiring teachers on a part-time basis;and redeployment of staff and/or increasing teaching sessions.

Other interventions includemerging smaller classes to reduce teacher demand; increased utilisation of information and communications technology (ICT) and video-taping of lessons; and sharing teachers’ expertise through the Twinning of Schools Programme.

Mr. Samuda advised that a voluntary relocation strategy is being considered, noting that “we have redeployed teachers previously engaged at all-age and junior high schools to assist at the high-school level”.

He assured that these teachers will not lose their benefits as a result of the move.

In addition, he said that the Ministry will allow schools to recruit pretrained graduates and individuals with at least a first degree in areas of expertise that are in short supply.

“These teachers will undergo training on the job as well as formally, for one year, in partnership with the teachers’ colleges,” he pointed out.

Mr. Samuda further advised that the Ministry plans to spend some $360 million over the next three years to fund scholarships for an additional 300 educators under the Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative.

He said that $70 million has been earmarked in the 2020/21 Budget for teacher-training scholarships.

Mr. Samuda informed that the Ministry has awarded 709 mathematics and science pre-service scholarships under the initiative at a cost of $601.3 million, since 2015.

“Last year, 217 students graduated and entered the system, with an additional 273 scheduled to graduate in 2020,” he said.

A breakdown of the 390 resignations for each of the Ministry’s Regions shows Region 1 comprising institutions in Kingston and St. Andrew accounting for 134; Region 2 – Portland, St. Thomas and St. Mary, 78; Region 3 – St. Ann and Trelawny, 37; Region 4 – St. James,Hanover and Westmoreland, 69; Region 5 – Manchester and St. Elizabeth, 40; and Region 6 – St. Catherine and Clarendon, 32.

Mr. Samuda said that the Ministry is committed to addressing the concerns, that have led to teachers relocating to other institutions, taking jobs overseas, or exiting the educational systemfor career opportunities in other sectors.

“I want [everyone] to understand that all that can be done within the limits of our resources is being done, collectively, to the best of our ability [to address the situation],” Mr. Samuda said.