Tension is brewing between the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) and the education ministry over the possible closure of schools today and disciplinary action which could be meted out by the ministry if this occurs. 

The education ministry in a statement today says it has not given permission for schools to be closed today. The education ministry states that  there are reports  that some administrators  are planning to close school today to facilitate teachers attending a trade union event.

Ministry of Education, Trade Union for TeachersThe ministry says principals on the recommendation of board chairmen must seek its permission  before closing school. Permanent secretary in the education ministry Elaine Foster-Allen says closure of schools outside of stipulated guidelines constitutes a breach of policy which attracts disciplinary action.

It is this reference to disciplinary action that has the JTA concerned. The association has planned three parish half yearly meetings for today in St Catherine, Manchester and Westmoreland.

The meetings are to discuss the Jamaica Teaching Council bill sections of  which the  JTA has raised concerns. The JTC when established is to regulate the teaching profession and the JTA says this will have significant impact on teachers in the service and also for future teachers.

A formal submission is to be made to the education minister after the JTA island-wide consultations. JTA president Dr Mark Nicely says it is unusual for the ministry to send such a reminder. He says the bulletin has a taste of threat because it speaks to disciplinary action to be taken if teachers attend the meeting  without certain procedures.

He states that  the teachers have no intention for schools to be close today. He points out that among the benefits of teachers is casual leave and teachers could take such a leave to attend the meeting. He adds that teachers have a right to the freedom of association.

Dr Nicely says he believes the ministry is trying to deter teachers from attending the meeting. The JTA president says the Association will  act  if disciplinary action is taken against any teacher who attends the meeting.

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