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TTUTA Must Support Children
The recent much-publicised “disagreement” between an official of the teachers’ union, TTUTA, and the Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh, is a reminder of what is wrong with this country. The Maha Sabha itself had to take decisive action—locking out TTUTA to prevent further disaster at our Tunapuna Hindu School not too long ago.
TTUTA seems determined to contribute significantly to the destruction of our society in its repeated and conscious actions to undermine the education system and the future of our young children. Unless a strategy is found to combat these counter-productive tactics by TTUTA, this unnecessary situation will continue to prevail. It is evident that the founders of TTUTA never envisaged that their dream of having a professional association for teachers would be demolished over a period of time by a militant type of unionism.
Over the last three decades there has been little effort by TTUTA to instill in its members a sense of dedication, direction and purpose to the achievement of national goals. The media have abundant evidence of the actions of TTUTA in creating unrest in the society through its mindless strikes and the unnecessary inconvenience to the national community.
It is common knowledge that TTUTA seldom engages teachers in institutional learning unlike their counterparts in several jurisdictions. Many of our teachers are fossilised in the education system and have made very little effort in their own professional growth and development. Unless the Ministry of Education or the denominational boards provide opportunities for them, TTUTA will not.
The Maha Sabha Education Board of Management has been targeted by TTUTA. This became quite evident in our “Tunapuna Affair.” But we work quite closely with our principals and teachers who not only understand the needs of the children but also appreciate the ambition of the Board. As often as required our teachers sacrifice their weekends for the benefit of their children.
We cannot afford the failures which the education system offloads on society. Teachers enjoy the most favourable conditions of work as well as decent salaries when compared to most other employees. In this context, therefore, the Ministry of Education must take decisive action to make teachers (and administrators) accountable for their performance.
We all recognise the influence of teachers on the lives of children. No legislation, no increase in the number of police officers and soldiers and no increase in the number of police stations can transform the lives of our children as effective, efficient and caring teachers can. Teachers must stop blaming parents, social and economic factors for their poor performance. In many parts of the world all these factors exist but the performance of the teachers triumphed over all drawbacks.
Some of our teachers’ penchant for excuses and explanations for their own incompetence and failures would have resulted in their dismissals and closure of schools in many other places across the world. The state was most generous to teachers and administrators in 2000, when salaries were doubled. A principal’s salary moved from just over $5,000 a month to over $10,000 and teachers enjoyed a similar increase because their salaries were pegged to workers in the external labour market.
This linking of teachers’ salaries to those in the external labour market has continued without any review of the terms and conditions such as leave and other holidays. This has resulted in widespread abuse of the education system. Abuse of leave (14 sick/14 occasional) and factors such as bank time (5 days), public holidays (6-8 days), principals’ holidays (3 days), examinations, assessments and reports (6-8 weeks) and other type of leave. When added, the teacher spends approximately 26-29 weeks in the classroom.
Teachers must also be asked to attend professional development courses in the student’s vacation period to enhance their teaching pedagogy and strategy. Teachers, like employees in the external labour market, should be entitled to 3-4 weeks holidays per annum. T&T cannot afford the present pay scales without the requisite performance.
Teachers salaries: principal secondary ($16,000—$19,000), principals—primary ($13,000—$16,000), heads of departments/deans ($12,000—$15,000), Teacher IIIs, Teacher IIs ($10,000—$14,000) and TIs ($6,000—$8,000).
It should be noted that these pay scales ended on September 30, 2011 and new negotiations are to be conducted for the period October 2011 to September 2014. The nation will not accept anything other than high quality performance from teachers to ensure the development of our children and the future of the nation.
The Ministry of Education must insist that, other than examination success, teacher’s terms and conditions of service must be reviewed and renegotiated in line with international norms for the profession. Unpunctuality must be quantified and deducted monthly from teachers’ salaries. The education system must be performance-driven in its appraisal of teachers. Perform or look for another profession.
TTUTA must admit that a great deal of bad behaviour in some schools can be ascribed to absenteeism, unpunctuality, boring lessons and a lack of care towards students. Improvement in these areas will result in not only academic progress but also better developed citizens. Teachers must not be the first off the school compound at the end of the school day.
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