Fair treatment for promotion and placement, better working conditions in terms of resources and physical conditions, staffing at primary schools, security, schools in need of repairs and relocation of the Scarborough Secondary school.
These were among some 24 matters that Tobago teachers came out in full force to protest for in front of the offices of the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy at Dutch Fort, Scarborough on Monday morning.
Just one one week into the new school term, the teachers declared “enough is enough” and demanded that Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, who is also Secretary of Education, address these issues which they say have been affecting them for the past three years.
Lynsley Doodhai, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association, was on hand to lend support to the teachers. He told the media during the protest action that Tobago teachers have grown frustrated by the lack of communication and development in the island’s education sector.
“The fact that there is a large turnout of teachers for this protest will tell you that all is not well with education in Tobago and there are many unresolved issues affecting them. While the Chief Secretary would have sent out a release trying to do damage control, we still don’t believe all is well with education in Tobago,” Doodhai said.
Newsday Tobago was told the teachers would continue protest action until attention was paid to their concerns.
“The Division of Education has not treated with these matters...(which) were allowed to be continued for very long and the teachers need for the Education Division to sit with TTUTA and engage in meaningful discussion to solve these issues,” said TTUTA Tobago Officer, Orlando Kerr.
Kerr cited specific concerns as inadequate teaching resources, violence and indiscipline in schools and the removal of remedial teachers from secondary schools.
“Teachers are fed up and have been asking for protest action but TTUTA has tried to remain around the table with the Division. Despite our attempts the Division is taking teachers in Tobago for granted and taking the Association (members) for fools by giving us wrong information and we will not take that,” he added.
“The teachers have come out to send a resounding message to the Division of Education that it cannot be business as usual, that they are suffering, they are frustrated and they would like their matters to be dealt with.
At a press conference later in the day, Chief Secretary Charles responded to the teachers’ protest action by saying that it “could have been avoided by a simple phone call or a meeting.”
He said many of the issues highlighted by TTUTA were human resources-related, and that within the past two weeks, 15 of the 24 matters have been resolved.
He said the Division does not have the responsibility to appoint and transfer teachers, but that there was no shortage of staff at Tobago schools.
“The avenge pupil/teacher ratio in public schools in Tobago is 1:15 and in some schools the ratio stands at four students per teacher. Sixteen of the 34 schools in Tobago have pupil/teacher ration of less than or equal to one teacher to 12 students, which is 47 percent.
“There are nine schools which have teacher/pupil ratios which has less than or equal to one teacher to 15 students. There’s one school that had a ratio of one teacher to four students and another of one teacher to seven students,” he said, saying that the data shows “a particular kind of commitment to resolve the issues that are affecting teachers in Tobago.”
Charles also contended that there were no problems with security at secondary schools across Tobago and that surveillance cameras have been place at all nine schools.
He said too that a number of advertisements for positions for teachers and deans in primary schools have been sent out and that senior and assistant teachers would be placed in the various schools in the coming weeks. He also claimed that last year, all schools repairs over the July/August vacation were completed before the reopening of the school term in September.