Some 100 teachers, now employed in Assistant Teacher 1 positions, some as long as seven years, have planned protest action all of this week in a bid to get the Division of Education to work on appointing them to Teacher 1 positions.
The teachers began their protest action on Monday outside the Division’s head office on Dutch Fort Street, Scarborough, demanding an update on their appointment status from Administrator Jacqueline Job.
However, after waiting for almost an hour outside Job’s office in a bid to meet with her, the teachers were told she would schedule a meeting at a date to be announced.
Orlando Kerr, Tobago Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), which led the protest action, described Job’s unwillingness to meet with the teachers as disrespectful.
He told Newsday Tobago that teachers want an immediate discussion immediately on issues affecting them and will be waiting outside Job’s office every day this week.
“You cannot have over 100 teachers coming at the Division about their business and you are saying that you are not meeting with them and you will set a date. We are going to come every day until they meet with us, we will be here tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9am and we are going to come every day to see about our affairs. If we lose this battle, most of the teachers waiting will not be upgraded until the next ten years,” he said
Kerr also called on Education Secretary Kelvin Charles, who is also the Chief Secretary, to consider the proposal made by TTUTA Tobago weeks ago, to establish a task force to specifically deal with issue of appointments for teachers in Tobago.
Kerr said this proposal suggested increasing the number of staff in the Division’s Human Resources department so that those attached to the task force would focus on recommendations of Tobago teachers to the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) to their just positions.
He said only 21 recommendations were made within the past five years, with almost 200 teachers still waiting to be recommended for jobs.
Kerr said while the appointment of Tobago teachers to positions at the island’s schools was the responsibility of the TSC, a recommendation must first be made by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Education Division. He said the affected teachers were qualified to be appointed in Teacher 1 positions but were still operating in the position of Assistant Teacher for over seven years now.
“Things are not fine in education in Tobago and until they (Education Division) admit that and commit to solutions, we will have serious challenges here. We have had a change in administrators in the Division a number of times and it seems like no one want to take the bull by the horn and deal with this issue once and for all. We have been dealing with this challenge so long, it’s not funny,” he said.
Kerr said promises to address the matter were made to the teachers during several meetings between the Division and TTUTA over the past five years.
“At the last protest (April) we had a large number of disgruntled teachers out protesting and all schools in Tobago were closed. Is it that TTUTA is so influential that we could encourage teacher to protest even if things as good, as said by the Secretary (Kelvin Charles)?”
Asked about the impact of the teachers’ protest on schools across the island, Kerr said:
“We are concerned about the , but the Division must be concerned as well. Had they come out to talk to the teachers today, they would have been in their schools the next morning. Mr Charles, I’m sure gets his salary, has his own house and is able to pay all his bills at the end of the month. What about the young teachers who can’t do that?”
He said TTUTA Tobago was seeking support from parents to force the hands of the Division to deal fairly with each Tobago teacher.
“If they (Division) do not come with solutions, we are going to continue to take action until the plight of the teachers are relieved. It is unfair these young teachers cannot continue business as usual and people are denying that there are issues in education.
“Teachers are becoming frustrated and are contemplating other career options because they have families to feed and it’s unfair if they are in a profession and cannot get their just reward,” he added.