Orlando Kerr, Tobago Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), said that plans announced by Chief Secretary and Secretary for the Division of Education Kelvin Charles will generate any revolution in the sector over the next three years in Tobago.
In July, Charles has announced that plans were in progress to create a robust education system in Tobago. Among these plans were several programmes - a post-Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) remedial programme, a “Leading for Literacy” programme in primary schools, a technology vocational diploma programme with the MIC Institute of Technology, a leadership programme for school principals, a dyslexic training programme for 18 teachers, a Teachers’ Development Centre to boost education through training, and a literacy and numeracy challenges programme to bridge gaps in teaching and learning at a basic level using 12 instructional coaches.
Kerr said the measures being by Charles would not help to improve the quality of education in Tobago if there was no consultation with teachers and TTUTA.
“TTUTA is not concerned about looking good or winning a next election. We are concerned about education and I can say at this point in time, those initiatives they (Education Division) are talking about, are not happening. They probably are serious by what they are saying but in the schools where the programme is supposed to be enrolled and benefitting the students, it’s not working,” Kerr said in an interview.
“There is a difference between reality and trying to use cosmetics to dress things and let it appear as though it is working, when it’s not working.
“They continued to launch programmes - they sent instructional coaches for Standard Four students. I hope this is not a way to replace remedial teachers. This cannot be a strategy to replace remedial teacher because remediation is a special case. The Division is afraid to sit with us and answer question they know they cannot answer,” he said.
Kerr also noted infrastructural issues continue to plague various schools. While he noted that the mal-functioning sewage system at the Happy Haven School for Special Needs students has been fixed, the day after
the school was shut down and students sent home, he said a similar issue at Speyside Anglican primary school still exists.
He said TTUTA was also still very concerned about the falling ceiling at the Roxborough Anglican Primary school.
Maintaining that the Division of Education cannot predict a revolution in education in the next three years if it cannot address simple issues, Kerr declared that “if things continue the way it has been going over the last couple months, we will have to show our displeasure.”
“We hope that there is some movement from the Division in the right direction. There are still many things outstanding. Notwithstanding the economic crisis in the country, the Secretary must understand that we cannot let our teachers remain in some of these conditions. We must take their health and safety into consideration,” he said.
“There are many schools that cannot even get light bulbs, leaving the classrooms dark. One teacher even went to the doctor after she developed problems with her eyes after the light bulbs kept flickering for a while and she continued to try to teach,” he said.
“It’s one more week before school closes, so I know the teachers are trying to hold on. The Division has given the assurance that sometime over the Christmas vacation, they would take the opportunity to deal with some of the problems,” he said.