Across the world, TT included, teachers work under trying circumstances to impart knowledge to tomorrow’s leaders, yet they remain under appreciated and under valued.
This issue came to the fore yesterday when TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Lynsley Doodhai spoke at the Association’s District Convention 2017. The theme for this year’s convention was, “Teaching in freedom, empowering teachers.” A holiday was granted to allow teachers to attend the convention.
Speaking at Presentation College in San Fernando — one of eight venues across the country where the convention was held — Doodhai said government has an obligation to ensure teachers are valued, honoured and respected.
“Valuing teachers should entail the provision of decent working conditions, well resources, safe and healthy working environments, professional autonomy, collegiality, academic freedom, high quality initial training and continuous professional development and support.”
“Any consideration of the theme must involve asking these questions: are you, the teachers of Trinidad and Tobago, able to teach in freedom? Do you feel empowered to do so? I can fully understand if you believe these are rhetorical questions, for in my humble view, I do not believe that teachers are able to teach in freedom or are empowered to do so.”
Doodhai said that from his own analysis, he believes teachers cannot teach in freedom or feel empowered for several reasons. He said some of the reasons include rampant student indiscipline especially in secondary schools, and it continues to affect the ability of their teachers to deliver the curriculum. “It is not uncommon, as many of the teachers may have experienced it, for teachers to be verbally or even physically abused by students. The poor physical conditions of many of our nation’s schools result in valuable contact time being needlessly lost. Schools are shut down daily for infrastructural, sewer, air-conditioning or ventilation problems. It is now common to hear of a ceiling falling or a school being burnt by fire or of a sewer overflowing.”
Doodhai said what was more disturbing is the continuation of the lack of consultation and disrespect, even though there is now someone occupying the most influential position in the Ministry of Education, who echoed these same sentiments while serving in the highest capacity in the association. “Can you imagine that a fundamental decision such as the change of date of the Secondary Entrance Assessment Examination was made without any consultation with TTUTA?