AS many as 200 people working to help vulnerable pupils in the nation’s schools are being let go by the Ministry of Education, lamented former minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh. He told Newsday between 150 and 200 staff – including guidance counsellors and educational and clinical psychologists – have not had their contracts renewed by the ministry. Gopeesingh contrasted this state of affairs with the ministry under his tenure when the staffing of the Student Support Services Division was increased from 250 to 700 employees.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia told Newsday most such contracts had ended and some staff will be re-hired. “We are in the process to renew the contracts of those whose performance has been satisfactory,” Garcia said.
“We took the note to Cabinet which approved it.” He could not say how many staff will be re-hired and how many let go, but said this is a function of the ministry’s human resource department and will depend on employees’ individual performance appraisals.
Gopeesingh also queried recent statements by Garcia that all schools will be re-opened on time for the new school year. He alleged Garcia said the same thing last year but that shortly after schools had re-opened many were immediately shut again for repairs. “More than 25 schools then remained closed for a significant time, some exceeding one term. So Minister Garcia’s statement must be taken with a pinch of salt.”
Querying whether repairs are underway, Gopeesingh added, “Given the amount of contractors who remain unpaid, it will be interesting to see who they get to do the work.” He said $1.2 billion is still owed. He lamented that out of the school construction begun under his tenure, the Government had left 78 schools unfinished, many now in decay and ruins. Garcia in reply told Newsday that he was standing by remarks made last Friday. “The EFCL’s (Educational Facilities Company Limited’s) Ricardo Valdez’s view was that all is on stream for all schools to be re-open on time.”