JIS News

Over the past four years, more than 500 teachers have been recruited from Jamaica to work in the United Kingdom (UK) and for some, the long separation from family and friends coupled with cultural and social shocks, has made the experience daunting.
There is however one organization that is providing support to these teachers, to help them cope and to better integrate themselves into the UK society.
This organization, called the Association of Jamaican Teachers UK, provides a support base and acts as a network for Jamaican teachers in that country. The association was founded some two-years ago by Teddy Burton, who is himself a Jamaican teacher who migrated to England in 2001.
“You will of course imagine that when the whole mass recruitment of teachers started, a whole lot of people came leaving families and friends behind, and to have arrived in a country where many did not have any relatives or did not know anyone, there was need for some kind of belonging,” Mr. Burton tells JIS News in an interview.
He pointed out that some of the teachers were also concerned about the terms and conditions of their contracts. “People were facing a number of issues as there was misinformation at the time of recruitment and some people did not find a sound footing when they came (to the UK) because they found the information they received to be incorrect. So, with that kind of similar experience among a number of teachers, we thought that by coming together, we could network and support each other,” he informed.
The association is based in London with a membership of about 100 teachers. Mr. Burton points out that the association collaborates with a similar group in Birmingham, as the aim is to provide support for all Jamaican teachers.
“At the moment we are in contact with in excess of 100 teachers but we know that there are hundreds of Jamaican teachers and our hope is that we will be able to find them wherever they are,” he stated.
The group has been gathering information on the issues surrounding the status of the recruited teachers and has also compiled information from the education authorities and teacher training agencies.
A website has now been established, which Mr. Burton says, will provide teachers with information to help them enhance their standing in the UK. Most of the teachers recruited from Jamaica are classified as untrained teachers and the association wants this to change.
“As it stands, there is no room for upward mobility without qualified teacher status and there are also pay related issues, especially in a situation where we have no recourse to public funds or services”, he points out.
The association has also forged links with one of the UK’s largest teachers’ unions, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), and that organization’s Deputy General Secretary, Steve Sinnott, is supporting the association in trying to improve the status of the Jamaican teachers.
“We believe that the issue of teacher recruitment should be done in a managed way; in a way in which the interests of teachers are protected, in a way in which the education systems (in the host and donor countries) are protected, in a way in which the international objectives for education are respected, and at the same time, that the teachers themselves have access to all of the support mechanisms and the rights and entitlements of teachers of the host country,” Mr. Sinnot stated.