The start of this academic year was once again characterised by the usual claims of success by the Ministry of Education and disquiet on the part of teachers and parents of certain schools. This is an annual circus that the country has grown accustomed to, notwithstanding the name of the minister.
It is rather unfortunate that politics takes precedence over what is good for education. Ministers simply cannot resist the political mileage that can be squeezed out of education and therefore go to great lengths to gain political capital from what should otherwise be a routine exercise such as the reopening of school.
TTUTA would have routinely engaged the hierarchy of the Ministry of Education on September 1, to ascertain the status of the vacation repair programme. In a very frank and cordial exchange, certain updates were given to TTUTA which informed its media statement. Segments of this statement seemed to have displeased the Minister of Education when he responded to media questions regarding the readiness of school for reopening.
By the ministry’s own admission, the vacation repair programme got off to the usual late start and thus their targets could not have been met. Was the minister contradicting his own technocrats? Should we now question the reliability of information from high-ranking officials of the ministry?
TTUTA prides itself with having a good working relationship with the ministry. Based on this information it would have sought to advise its members accordingly. The OSHA is very clear about who determines if workplaces are safe. Simply insisting that all schools would be reopened on time is not the same as saying they will be safe and secure according the provisions of the law.
TTUTA has a duty to protect the interest of its members within the construct of a legal framework. Its duty is to advise its members of their rights under the law and how and when these rights can be exercised.
Basic honesty and decency would dictate that we fully apprise the country of the truth regarding the state of readiness of schools for resumption. Anything less would be a disservice to the nation. Acknowledgement of the inefficiencies of the current vacation repair programme would be the first step to correcting its shortcomings.
During the 2015 election campaign, the then Opposition Leader acknowledged that the bureaucracy involved in getting such a large number of schools repaired in a narrow time frame is an arrangement that has not worked and suggested that a different approach involving the regional corporations would have been adopted if his party was elected to govern.
No discernible change in the approach to school repairs and general maintenance has been seen thus far. The same failed approaches prevail and we expect different results. Discerning minds might detect duplicity here.
No one will argue that the task is simple, given the complex ownership arrangements that govern our schools, coupled with their age. In promoting the cause of education, TTUTA, as a major stakeholder, has a duty to protect the interest of its members and if schools are unsafe or unfit for occupation by teachers and students it is duty-bound to say so. It is also duty-bound to hold those in authority accountable.
TTUTA will continue to serve its members and country without fear or favour, seeking no political mileage out of education. Its objective is not to embarrass, nor engage in a war of words. It demands to be treated with respect and stands ready and willing to work with the authorities to ensure quality education in quality schools using quality tools and teachers. Here’s to a productive term.