The Jamaica Observer

Those familiar with the history of teaching cannot fail to appreciate the tragic irony of the dilemma that the profession is undergoing in terms of its dwindling male factor. For the majority of the world’s earliest teachers – philosophers and prophets – were males.

Theirs was the job of bringing mankind forward through myriad disciplines aimed at realising potential.

Naturally, women had their role to play in the process through the provision of a stable home environment.
We are not naive enough to believe that developments like the industrial revolution would not have had any impact on what was then accepted as the natural order of things as far as traditional gender roles were concerned.

And we are not suggesting that the ambitious strides women have made over the past two centuries should be reversed. However, as a society, we must accept the responsibility of ensuring that those whom we have elected to govern us provide the necessary framework within which to ensure that a reasonable measure of balance is maintained as the world adjusts to its current technological paradigm.

For, development and progress aside, it is necessary to retain some aspects of tradition. Men are the traditional leaders and breadwinners. Of course, there will be situations where women do a better job of leading and earning, and role reversal actually achieves better results. However, the statistics and research findings coming out of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association JTA), outlined in the Career section of today’s edition, are disheartening.

According to the JTA, which represents 88 per cent of the island’s approximately 25,000 public school educators, the percentage of males in the profession has dwindled dramatically – halved in fact – over the past five years from approximately 30 to 15 per cent.

This, according to Mr Hopeton Henry, the JTA’s president, is due in part to the profession’s low wages and unfavourable working conditions.

At the same time, research is indicating that Jamaica’s young male population is virtually self-destructing in the absence of positive male role models to inform their lives. For many young boys whose fathers have abandoned them, leaving the daily task of raising and moulding them to their mothers, the male teacher becomes the surrogate paternal role model who influences them.
Yes, we know all about the ‘mother who fathered me’ syndrome and are well aware of the many success stories featuring hard-working, single women and teachers who have raised and guided males into becoming exemplary contributors to society.

However, the reality is that in many cases, the odds of achieving success are stacked against the child whose upbringing lacks the day-to-day influence of a man at home or in the classroom. The contributions of these teachers – the good ones, that is – cannot be quantified or ever truly recompensed in terms of salaries or fringe benefits.

However, the State should – if it wants to see this country rise above the nastiness that is now too common – stem the exodus of good teachers, especially the male ones, from the Jamaican classrooms.

Of course, it’s going to mean the equitable redistribution of, and additional resources – a touchy issue, given the economic challenges facing us.

But if it doesn’t happen, as Mr Henry pointed out in today’s story, we could find ourselves up against monstrous consequences. And speaking against the background of last week’s horrific massacre at Virgina Tech University in the United States, we would really wish to be spared that.