Coping with the teacher exodus

Guyana Chronicle
September 20, 2000

THE Education Ministry has been moving to cope with the loss of trained teachers, from the reported exodus to Botswana and other countries, and from those leaving the profession, in several ways.

We understand that the ministry has received no official word from those leaving but it has taken several initiatives to intensify teacher training and upgrading in a way that had not been done before.

It is making use of Distance Education modalities to deliver teacher training programmes in hinterland regions.

This was started this year in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) and it began last year in Region One (Barima/Waini) and Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni).

The programme is intended to upgrade primary and nursery teachers in the core subject areas of Language, Science, Maths and Social Studies.

Even though there have been losses through the reported migration, we understand that statistics at the Ministry of Education show there has been an increase in the number of trained teachers in the system.

This is especially at the nursery and primary level, officials say.

People leave professions and their home country for a variety of reasons and countries like Guyana which cannot afford the kind of salary scales available in more prosperous societies, are bound to suffer when overseas scouts come around looking for trained professionals to serve in their land.

Apart from insisting that those trained at the expense of the State serve out their contractual obligations, a government cannot block those who want to leave for `greener pastures' from doing so and it has to devise methods to cope with the impact of any sudden exodus.

This is part of the lot of poor countries and Guyana is not unique in this regard.

Cuba has an education system rated among the best in the world but it is trying to cope with a shortage of teachers at some levels.

Guyana may do well to examine closer what the Cubans are doing to see if a similar system can be tried here.

In recent years, the exodus of teachers to better paid jobs in Cuba, necessitated using teaching students and professionals from other areas in the classroom to cover the teachers' deficit in the capital Havana, the Cuban Prensa Latina news agency said.

As a result, Cuba has launched an emergency training programme for primary school teachers to cope with a shortage of teachers in Havana.

President Fidel Castro opened the emergency course this week to train 500 new primary education teachers.

According to Prensa Latina, the Granma daily said that at the opening, President Castro assured the students that the new educational plan will allow no more than 20 students per classroom within two years.

The students being trained as teachers will receive intensive six-month classes and then will practise with experienced teachers for 90 days, before having their own classrooms.

"I believe that we are doing something that will show us how to solve the problems we are having with the primary teacher deficit in Havana", the Cuban President said.

Once they graduate, the teachers are committed to remain in the educational sector for at least five years, after which they are guaranteed the right to continue university studies.

Guyana may be able to learn from Cuba how to better cope in this area.

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