Jamaica: 8 In 8 Days; Two More Teachers Die In 24 Hours

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – President of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) Winston Smith confirmed that another teacher, Amory Tomlinson, who is employed as a teacher at a school in Black River, St Elizabeth died on Wednesday, the second teacher to die in the last 24 hours, setting up a grim milestone for the education fraternity of eight deaths in eight days.

“So it’s now 8 in 8 days, the teacher’s name who died is Amory Tomlinson,” Smith told OBSERVER ONLINE.

Jennifer Gidden, acting principal and vice principal of Charlemont High school, also died on Wednesday

Smith is extremely concerned about the surge of sudden deaths reported among teachers.

He believes that high stress levels in the nation’s classrooms is contributing towards the deaths.

“The JTA is aware of the passing of a colleague from Charlemont High School this morning. Whilst we are not sure of the cause of death, we are extremely concerned because all these teachers have died suddenly with what can be connected to stress or such activity,” Smith said.

He urged teachers to implement relaxation exercises to relieve stress and called for spiritual intervention on behalf of the nation’s teachers.

“The JTA would like to use this opportunity to remind our members to take good care of self by taking time out to relax and treat themselves in whichever way they can to ensure that they release the stress occasioned by the job as well as financial burdens,” Smith said.

The JTA president also asked the Ministry of Education to provide counseling to schools affected by the sudden passing of teachers.

“We are asking for the Ministry of Education to provide grief counseling to the staff of the affected schools and to remind each school that the JTA has counselors available to them at a beck and call. They just need to make contact with their Regional Officer or the Head Office,” he said.

He expressed condolences to both the biological as well as professional families of the deceased colleagues.

“We await the outcome of the autopsies to ascertain the cause of death. We ask for the nation’s prayers for our teachers continually,” Smith said.

Among the teachers who have passed away are Gregory Williams, mathematics lecturer at the Portmore Community College in St Catherine (May 11); Ann Marie Johnson Lindo, vice principal of Duncans All-Age School in Trelawny (May 12); Antoinette Banton-Ellis, principal of Vere Technical High School in Clarendon (May 12); Carlos Gordon, a grade six teacher of One Way Prep School in Kingston (May 14); and Donnalee Wright of Tarrant High School in St Andrew (May 16) who taught English Language across several grades since 2019.