The decisions concerning the Secondary Entrance Assessment were made with the best interest of the nation's students, Minister of Education Anthony Garcia said Friday.
Responding in part to some of the backlash following the August 20 SEA date and to offer teachers stipends for the work they will have to do during their vacation period, Garcia said, "We have to understand that we are not operating under normal circumstances. This is why we have to hold hands with all our stakeholders and in particular our principals, our vice-principals and our teachers and our parents all in the interest of our children. We deliver the product and that product is a quality education and we have to make sure that we have the total support of all of our stakeholders."
The minister, who commented following a tour of the Arima Central Secondary, said he had not been in contact with TTUTA since the announcement but had heard their general council disagreed with it.
"I understand the general council was not in agreement with our position, but again we have the business of education to see about and secondly we have our children, both in the primary and secondary schools, to see about and where education is concerned our students must be given top priority," Garcia said.
He made it clear "that doesn't say that we are neglecting our teachers, our teachers are there to facilitate and in an effort to ensure that our students receive a high-quality education, we must ensure that our teachers are well taken care of too. This is what we have been doing."
He also explained that not all teachers will be required to turn out.
"Those teachers that are required to go out to school from the 20th of July are the teachers who are teaching the SEA classes, so it is only those teachers who have been assigned to the Standard 5 classes and are teaching the SEA students, those teachers are supposed to turn out."
However, he said all primary school principals will be required to turn out because they have to supervise things to ensure everything goes okay.
The announcement that teachers will be paid a stipend has been met with harsh criticism from the Registered Nurses Association, which has argued that nurses who were the frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic did not even get hazard incentives.
Garcia admitted he could not speak for nurses but explained the situations were different.
"In terms of the nurses, there is a fundamental difference. Where teachers are concerned it is their vacation period that we are asking that they turn out.
"I don't know with respect to the nurses, I don't want to talk on behalf of the nurses but all I want to say at this point is it is the teachers' vacation period and we are asking them in the interest of the students to turn out during the vacation period and we are offering then an incentive," Garcia said.