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Saturday 23 June 2018
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Commentary

Plight of our school supervisors

TTUTA

AS A SUBSET of the education sector, school supervisors play a most critical function. Through them the hierarchy of the ministry issues instructions and guidelines to schools and the general teaching population and conversely holds teachers and schools accountable.

The first line of accountability of school principals is the school supervisor. Unfortunately, owing to their small number, it would seem that their strategic importance is lost if one were to judge by the way they are treated by the very ministry they staunchly defend.

Issues affecting their terms and conditions of service have been outstanding for years and despite repeated attempts by TTUTA to have these resolved, the list of grievances persists.

TTUTA calls on the ministry to address these grievances that are severely impacting on the terms and conditions of service of these ministry workhorses. These include, but are not limited to, non-payment of vehicle upkeep and travelling allowances since September 2017.

These allowances are paid to facilitate travelling undertaken by school supervisors’ travel in the performance of their official duties. As it currently exists, these people are using their vehicles to carry out their duties out of the goodness of their hearts and pockets. Should they decide to exercise their rights and refuse to engage in travel to perform their duties, many would find colourful expressions of condemnation to espouse.

Tardiness by the ministry in pursuing an increase in the interim allowance is another major bone of contention. Although the post of school supervisor was delinked from the public service into the teaching service more than ten years ago, school supervisors continue to be paid in public service ranges. The substantive salaries are actually less than the salaries of the principals and teachers that they supervise.

The interim allowance was introduced to offset these anomalies that developed every time officers in the teaching service got salary increases. Arising out of the salary settlement to members of the teaching service for the period 2011-2014, there was a need to increase the incentive allowance once again. Despite the Chief Personnel Officer making a recommendation since 2017 for such an increase, the matter is still awaiting cabinet approval. School supervisors are essential to the smooth running of the schools.

They supervise the work of principals, facilitate the delivery of the curriculum and assist with the maintenance of an adequate and proper learning environment in the schools.

The continued failure by the ministry to address these issues is inexcusable and unacceptable and has resulted in school supervisors becoming frustrated, demotivated and disenchanted. If outstanding travelling entitlements are not addressed expeditiously then their ability to visit schools and attend meetings will be severely compromised, leading to the collapse of the system.

TTUTA once again strongly urges the authorities to awake from their slumber and treat with these issues with the sense of urgency they deserve. This situation is untenable and contrary to good industrial relations practices and policies.

Indeed, the continued persistence of the salary anomalies is contrary to the International Labour Organization’s conventions. Nowhere in the modern world can one have subordinates enjoying a superior remuneration package compared to their supervisors. In addition, some of these people are even being made to function out of buildings that would fail occupational health and safety regulations. The district offices of St Patrick and St George East are both in an appalling physical state, with some occupants even falling sick owing to exposure to poor air quality. However, despite the threats to their personal health and safety, their commitment and dedication to duty motivates them to continue to function and perform their duties with diligence.

Owing to these long outstanding issues, many people are reluctant to aspire to become supervisors. This is an untenable situation and continues to have a negative impact on the education system.

Many positions remain vacant for prolonged periods, with the few remaining having to do yeoman service to pick up the slack and keep the system functioning without insomuch as expressions of gratitude from the employer. In fact, some may even be berated and admonished by ministers from time to time.

There is no doubt that this is a group of workers whose rights are being breached on many fronts from remuneration to health and safety. As per modus operandi of the ministry, whenever these issues are brought to its attention, they are met with promises. The patience of school supervisors is running thin and their capacity to endure more promises is becoming exhausted.

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