Teachers walk off job over Ministry's pay delay

Teachers of the Bishops Centenary College walked off the job yesterday after being told they would not be paid because the school is yet to get money for the term from the Ministry of Education.

Chairman of the college’s board Grace Talma told the T&T Guardian she was “very disturbed,” about the situation, which has become “very stressful” for the staff and management and she is now calling for the intervention of the Prime Minister.

Talma said school was dismissed by midday yesterday and parents were contacted to pick up their children, but some children had to find their own way home. She admitted she was uncertain about what would happen today in terms of whether teachers will show up at all. She said she called the ministry to find out what was the situation with the cheques.

“I was put on to the Office of the Chief Education Officer, his assistant took the message that I needed to speak with him about a crisis at Bishops Centenary because we don’t have the money.”

But up to late yesterday she said no one from the ministry had returned her call. She is now adding her voice to calls for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to get involved in the situation facing the private schools.
Talma, a management consultant, admitted “it is not the right procedure to step over the minister, but we need to get some kind of response because it is serious.”

The private schools have been lobbying Government for an increase in the fee per student per term paid by Government from $1,200 to $5700. She said there is need for “some kind of response because it is a very stressful situation and most of all the students are suffering.”

She said the head of the Anglican Church, Bishop Claude Berkeley, has been mandated to get in touch with Education Minister Anthony Garcia in an effort to resolve the situation, because although the ministry has indicated the cheque for this term will be paid by the end of the week, “there are no specifics, they are not saying what day the cheques will be paid.”

T&T Association of Private Secondary Schools president Leslie Hislop meanwhile said no one from the ministry had contacted them on the fee increase issue and there was also still “no response” to the letter sent to Rowley, dated June 18, on the issue. He said the association was now “waiting to see what will happen when the results come out tomorrow.”

Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) results will be delivered to schools tomorrow.

Addressing the issue yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said, “Our position remains the same and will not change until the matter is resolved by the Cabinet. The process must be followed and I will not do anything that is against the process.”

A committee set up within the ministry to address the issue is continuing its work, he said.

Yesterday, the T&T Guardian obtained a copy of a letter written by a Form Three private secondary school student to Garcia. The student expressed concern about the situation between the ministry and the schools.

In the letter the child, whose identity has been withheld, said, “I feel unsure of my future. Minister, our school is a private school and we have to raise funds for toilet paper, paper for use in projects. We as students help out teachers with cleaning our classrooms because our school does not have the big company cleaning staff so we help our teachers.”

The student added, “Many government school students have a lot of supplies, but our schools are careful and make sure what we need they give to us. Our teachers use their own money to help buy the supplies we need. We are children like they are and we want to be educated.”

Noting that schools were about to go on the July-August vacation, the student added: “One more week left and you are still not saying what will happen to us. You are a parent and you would know how worried out parents are.”

Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) results will be delivered to schools tomorrow and Garcia yesterday assured the T&T Guardian that all students will be placed. He said places had been found for students over 13 years who scored under 30 per cent in the exam. Children under 13 years who scored under 30 per cent will have to repeat.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rosemarie Sant)

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