Parents and guardians shop for school supplies and uniforms for their children at Bradford Mall in Port of Spain on Saturday, ahead of the reopening of schools on Monday. – ROGER JACOB
National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) president Kevin David is asking teachers to find some other way to get the desired results in their negotiations with the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) – a way where children would not miss teaching time.
The TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) has called on teachers to stay home on Monday, the first day of the new school year, to reflect on the State’s treatment of its teachers.
TTUTA was officially offered a four per cent increase in salaries but its general council rejected the offer in a letter to the CPO since TTUTA negotiates using a labour market survey rather than percentages.
“Our parents are very angry. While the NPTA is quite aware of the importance of wages and negotiations, it is a very troubling time for all our parents, but more so for our children when they are recovering from two years of learning loss,” David said on Saturday.
“Teachers play a critical part in this learning recovery so we do need our teachers in the classroom.”
TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas on Friday said the association remained willing to continue discussions with the CPO, Dr Daryl Dindial, once he made a more acceptable offer.
David also expressed several other concerns about the start of the new school year including a lack of infrastructure work or the late start of such work in certain schools. He said late work on schools had been plaguing the education system for years, and he hoped it would not cause any delays in schools reopening.
He was also concerned about the removal of the mask mandate in schools as such a move ran the risk of those on the school compound getting sick.
“While it was very difficult for many of our students to wear that mask during the entire day, we plead with our parents to ensure their children adhere to the guidelines of staying apart and no sharing (of) items.”
He also asked parents to keep children at home if they have flu-like symptoms, even if it was not covid19, so any virus would not spread to other students which may lead to a school being closed.
David said the NPTA would also be providing parenting tips to support and inform parents, as well as make the school environment safer. It also intends to provide financial tips by the Central Bank to hopefully help and guide parents.
National Parent-Teacher Association president Kevin David. –
He said the organisation realised it could not push information solely through NPTA meetings as many people could not or did not attend. Therefore, it intends to do so through its social media and, hopefully, through the traditional media.
“The NPTA is not asleep. There are many things we are planning to move forward with but these things take time because we need to get permission from the general council. We also have our own internal issues, including court matters. They create a lot of problems internally in terms of actually moving the organisation forward and trying to make improvements in the programmes that we have.”
He also wished students a safe and successful term and encouraged them to take advantage of the knowledge being given to them.
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly told Sunday Newsday via WhatsApp that challenges around the opening of schools were “par for the course” but preparations for reopening on Monday were continuing.
She added, “Some schools were flooded over the last week, and as recently as yesterday (Friday), so clean up works are being done to facilitate opening on Monday.”
Apart from maintaining TTUTA’s position on wage negotiations, De Freitas on Saturday said there were a number of schools in need of major repairs but many of those works only started last week as the Ministry of Finance only released the funds about three weeks ago. As a result, the repairs were being rushed or would not be completed in time for Monday, and minor repairs were not being addressed.
She said TTUTA has been talking about a comprehensive repair programme for continuous maintenance for years but it seemed it was not being considered by authorities.
“It’s not just about rushing but how they see education and the facilities under which our teachers or members work, and the conditions under which students learn. It clearly is not a priority. Clearly we don’t see investment in education as something that is strategic.”
Noting CXC was expected to release exam results on Monday, De Freitas added that TTUTA and other education unions under the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) had expressed their concerns about the content of the exams, including the narrowing of subjects, the timing of exams, and quality assurance for marking of the exams under covid19 conditions.
Previously there had been issues with numerous errors in exam papers, unresolved grading problems, and results not being released in a timely manner for Upper Six students to enter university.
“The short story is that CXC did not take on the CUT and went ahead and did their own thing. We saw the fallout of that in 2020 and last year and we may very well see it again this year.”