The Ministry of Education has recruited some 16 additional specialist Spanish teachers from the Republic of Cuba for placement in a number of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions for the 2012/13 academic year, which begins in September.
The teachers are scheduled to arrive in August. The recruitment has been facilitated by the renewal of the 16-year bilateral agreement on education between the governments of Jamaica and Cuba, for the provision of professional and academic support, through their respective Ministries of Education.
The agreement was formally signed during a brief ceremony at the Ministry of Education’s National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston on Tuesday (July 3), and involved Education Minister, Rev. Hon. Ronald Thwaites, and Cuba’s Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Yuri Gala López.
Outlining details of the latest signing, Ambassador López said the 16 new teachers, who will serve for a three-year period, will replace a similar number of their counterparts, whose tenure, spanning a similar timeframe, expired at the end of the 2011/12 academic year.
A total of 46 Cuban teachers currently serve in the Ministry of Education’s six Regions, spanning all 14 parishes. Some 236 teachers have served in Jamaica since both countries signed the bilateral agreement in 1997.
“Not only have Cuban teachers rendered their services in many developing countries (like Jamaica), but also many students from those countries have studied and graduated, free of charge in Cuban universities. Currently, over 250 Jamaican youths are studying in Cuban universities as part of the bilateral scholarship programme. The renewal of this agreement shows that both countries continue to be strongly committed to this important programme, which is another example of South-South Cooperation,” Ambassador López stated.
In his remarks, Rev, Thwaites, noted that while many students, particularly at the secondary level, excel in Spanish up to the examination level, they “are still deficient in conversational Spanish”, and underscored the need to address this anomaly.
“So, the infusion of Spanish-speaking teachers, as this agreement evidences, allows us the opportunity to add that very significant element to the command of Spanish, which we hope, one day, will become normative for our Jamaican people,” the Education Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites also pointed to the need to facilitate vocational institutions such as the HEART Trust/NTA academies, which train workers for the hospitality industry, with the services of the teachers.
He expressed gratitude to the Cuban Government for their longstanding commitment to the bilateral cooperation on education, and extended an invitation for the country to indicate how best Jamaica can reciprocate in this regard, and other areas.
Education Officer for Foreign Languages in the Ministry’s Core Curriculum Unit, Martha Corbett-Baugh, told JIS News that 45 of the 46 Cuban teachers currently in the island are directly engaged in teaching, with the other being a coordinator. Of the 45, approximately 36 teach Spanish, while the others teach mathematics, physical education, and technical drawing.
She pointed out that in addition to those teaching at the primary and secondary levels, there are, for the first time, three lecturers at three of the island’s teachers’ colleges involved in the training of teachers of Spanish at the primary level.
Ms. Corbett-Baugh also stressed that teachers are not being recruited from Cuba to replace their Jamaican counterparts, but rather to “take on positions in schools where the principals could not identify suitable candidates”.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter