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Joint Select Committee hears: Rogue teachers a problem
Delinquent teachers, violent primary school students and an urgent need for more security at schools are some of the main issues engaging the attention of the Ministry of Education, a joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament heard yesterday. Representatives from 12 areas of the ministry appeared before the JSC and it was Government MP Jairam Seemungal who brought up the “burning” topic of not only delinquent students but teachers as well.
He was concerned that the new Continuous Assessment Component (CAC) programme was being rolled out while many teachers were delinquent in their delivery to students. “It can be a major disadvantage to students in attaining the full 20 per cent (in the CAC) if you don’t look at what’s happening to teachers,” Seemungal warned ministry officials.
Acting permanent secretary Jennifer Daniel said there were concerns about the traditional process of assessing teachers and a new method was in the making to be ready for implementation in the new school year. CEO Harrilal Seecharan told the JSC the ministry was paying more attention to absenteeism among teachers and late-coming. There had been a reduction in the number of minutes a teacher could be late, from 1,000 minutes to 300, he said.
Seecharan said the ministry was seeing improvement and the number of primary schools on academic watch had moved from 120 to 20. Daniel added among the measures being implemented to address teacher late-coming was the introduction of an electronic system and training for principals. She said: “We have pursued action on people for ridiculous late-coming. When we take disciplinary action we want it to stick.
“There are also concerns about the timeliness of reports from some principals. We want to take action even on that.” Opposition MP Amery Browne was worried about student violence in primary schools and the understaffing of relevant divisions in the ministry which were supposed to deal with the problem.
For example, he said, in Port-of-Spain and environs and the western peninsula there were only four guidance officers for 69 primary schools. Those were stretched so thin they visited schools once a month now instead of weekly, Browne added. The Cocorite Government Primary School, where there was an acute and urgent need for guidance counsellors, got only monthly visits, Browne said.
Many parents were concerned about the physical safety of their children in schools and in the Diego Martin area, some schools were dissatisfied with the level of security, he added. Many times, he said, there was one security officer at a school, who usually took up the duty of lone sentry at the gates. When there was an incident of student violence inside the school, a problem arose, he added.
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