Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said he is aware of the many challenges teachers face on a daily basis.
Charles was speaking at the 97th anniversary of Tobago Teacher Get-Together hosted by the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) on Thursday evening at the Tobago Nutrition Co-operative Society Ltd, Canaan.
Commenting on this year’s theme, Mental health a critical pillar of a sustainable education system, Charles said, “Just as education is a mainstay of education and economic social development, so too is mental health to education. You are only human and you need the best support to take care of your health just as you would do your physical health.”
He added, “We are still learning how to approach the mental health of students, this is why we must stay abreast and informed of contemporary issues in mental health so one can be proactive in finding solutions that are affected. If there is anyone that brings positive change to the world, it is a teacher.”
He noted too that students also must be informed of how they can care for their mental health.
A former teacher, Charles said the profession is one of the most impactful careers one can have.
“Teaching means leaving a lasting impression. It’s one of the few careers that you give of yourselves over and over long after you have stopped teaching. By then you would have had an influence on hundreds of students and they will go on to have an impact on others, so it is an ongoing cycle.”
Charles stressed the national importance of teaching, adding, “I know the challenges teachers face in a career that is a reward unto itself. It can be argued that teachers provide a national service that can be essential as healthcare and as important as national security. You are therefore laying a foundation for the future...You have a critical role to play in fashion young people’s life."
He said teachers must also understand that they have the to ability to assist in reducing a number of national issues, particularly in Tobago, and with the support of the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy their efforts will yield significant results.
Tobago officer of TTUTA Orlando Kerr, during his opening remarks, said teachers' mental health continues to be neglected, which was why this year’s celebration focused on it.
He said it is necessary for teachers, as shapers of the future generation, to be mentally healthy so that students can be guided in the right path to be able to perform at their best ability.