I am, pleased to join you this morning to launch the Teachers’ Aides Programme which is designed to support the government-operated school system in a meaningful way over the next 52 weeks. I congratulate the more than 300 individuals selected to participate in this important segment of the National Job Preparedness and Readiness Programme. As you are aware, my Government undertook this National Jobs Preparedness initiative with a view to firstly create jobs in the short term and, secondly, over the longer term, to train additional individuals in our labour pool, better positioning participants to become gainfully employed in the months and years ahead. I am especially satisfied with the number of individuals who have responded to this jobs readiness initiative and who are taking advantage of the employment and training opportunities arising from the programme. I am told that you have undergone an intensive training programme in preparation for the task before you.

Some the topics addressed included:

– Work Ethics
-What is expected of you
– Personal Attitudes
– Reliability
– Social Responsibility
– The mission of Education and your role in its delivery

I trust that you will not lose sight of your training once you enter the doors of our schools and libraries and other educational workplaces. Participants: In your new positions as Teachers’ Aides, you will become an important link in the chain which delivers information, skills and knowledge to over 50, 000 students in over 160 government-operated schools. I urge you, to do your best; see yourselves as an important part of the school’s operation. I expect that your performance as an aide to teachers in our classrooms will measurable improve the quality of the education provided in government-operated schools and hence to the learning experience of our children. Classroom sizes – that is the number of children taught by a single teacher – has presented a problem to government-operated schools for many years. Indeed, many parents tell us that one of the primary reasons they wish to send their children to private schools is to get them into small classroom sizes where teachers are able to give personal attention to students. They also tell us, that many private schools benefit from the presence of teachers aides in the classroom, particularly in the early primary years.

And so, we are seeking to develop in the public school system a cadre of teacher’s aides who may be assigned to add quality to our classroom experience. Should this develop as we plan, teacher’s aides may become an established career in the teaching service involving individuals who may not wish to become fully qualified teachers but who prefer to work in the classroom in support of a teacher, providing specialized assistance in an area of their personal interest, skill and ability: in counseling and discipline, in computer skills, in reading or penmanship. I must say that experience has demonstrated that two adults in a classroom are better able to deal with a myriad of issues: whether it is general classroom management, personal instruction, deportment or personal hygiene and so on. Further, two adults responsible for a classroom are better positioned to meet with parents and to encourage more parental involvement in their children’s education. Another of the very distinguishing differences between public and private schools in our country is the level of parental involvement in the life of the school – it is very high in private schools and almost non-existent in many if not most of our public schools. You are in a position to inspire students. You can convey to them the importance of education, the importance of hard work and earning an honest living.

Children look to adults for guidance even when they deny that they do. Children typically want to be like their mothers and fathers and indeed, like their teachers. How many of us ever forget our primary school teachers? Few, I am certain. They are the ones who make lasting impressions upon us when we are most open to learn and form our characters. So I ask that you make certain that, in the fulfillment of your duties as a teacher’s aide, you set a good example: be punctual, dress appropriately, show respect and demand it in return, speak properly, drop the profanities. You have a wonderful opportunity to mold the character of our youth, to shape the behaviour and values of future generations; indeed to shape the character of our society in the years ahead. Today, we are reaping the results of what was sown years and years ago – anger without purpose, materialism as a new god. I urge you to use the opportunity afforded you as teacher’s aides to develop types of behaviours and attitudes that we desire, indeed yearn to see restored in our communities. We have high expectations of you. Certainly, it is my hope and expectation that from among you will come some of the first of a cadre of Teacher’s Aides whose role in the classroom will measurably impact the quality of education received by students in our schools. And so, while you have been engaged for 52 weeks in this programme, I advise that there will be opportunities for some of you to secure permanent employment in the Teacher Aide Corps in the future. Ensure that your performance over that 52 weeks period places you in good stead for securing one of those permanent positions in the future. In this regard, I remind you that an important part of your job readiness training will be learning to work as a team. You have been engaged to serve as an aide to a substantive teacher; observe what the teacher is doing; be attentive and ask questions – about the subject, the students, the facilities etc. and offer suggestions on how you might contribute. Always seek to be a positive influence.

Ladies and gentlemen, It is now my pleasure to declare the 2012 Teachers’ Aides Programme officially launched.