Enlist education students to support overworked staff in schools, Manitoba NDP urges

The Manitoba New Democrats want the provincial government to ease the strain on the education system by hiring students who are near the end of their teacher-training programs.

Education students in the last year of their university studies are suited to become the extra teachers, substitutes, educational assistants and classroom support workers the province needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Opposition party says.

Existing staff say they’re overwhelmed, trying to juggle teaching duties with students in different rooms and those learning at home. 

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the province could tap into $85.4 million in federal money already set aside for the education system to hire students to work in schools.

“What we’re proposing today is to get those teachers who’ve already done the vast majority of their training, who’ve already been in the classroom this year to now get, at least on an emergency basis, certified to teach in our classrooms,” he said Wednesday.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen would have to sign off on school divisions temporarily waiving degree and certification requirements, the party said.

Kinew said more than 500 students studying education at the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg are on the verge of graduating.  

NDP education critic Nello Altomare said the students who take up the emergency offer could finish their university requirements in the evenings.

“A lot of teachers do that already,” he said, especially those that are working on a post-baccalaureate or master’s degree. “They work during the day and at night they’re in class.”