AS QUICK as a blink, as some would say, the Christmas vacation has come and gone and the new year has begun, signalling the start of the second term of the 2018-2019 academic year. While some of the challenges of 2018 are still fresh in the minds of those of us in the education sector, it is with a renewed sense of optimism, anticipation and hope that we look ahead in 2019.
While funding, or lack thereof, largely defined the preceding calendar year, it is hoped that this situation will be significantly improved this year, thereby enabling all schools to fulfil their mandate without having to expend resources on excessive fundraising activities.
We commend the Minister of Education for his timely intervention in treating with a clear case of discrimination against ECCE teachers. It is our hope that this trend will continue into the rest of the year and that continued close collaboration will define the relationship between TTUTA and the Ministry of Education on all matters affecting the education sector.
High on the agenda of TTUTA for this calendar year will be the completion of negotiations with the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) for the period 2014-2017. This period has already expired and despite the pleas of TTUTA for the negotiations to be completed before the expiration of said period, the CPO kept insisting that no instructions were received from the Minister of Finance to do so until now.
Let us hope these negotiations can be amicably settled in a timely manner and that stalling tactics will not continue to define the position of the CPO.
TTUTA has been very patient with the CPO on this matter, having submitted proposals since 2015 for the period under question. The General Council of TTUTA has already signalled its dissatisfaction with what it sees as a form of contempt by the employer and would be monitoring the developments with bated breath.
The completion and occupation of TTUTA’s new headquarters in Carlsen Field will be another high-priority item for the association. This project, having begun in March 2018 and scheduled to be completed next month, represents a dream come true for the teachers of Trinidad and Tobago and the occupation of these spanking new facilities will indeed be a defining moment in the history of the association.
With the struggle for social justice, equity and quality education requiring renewed vigour, given the antagonism that has been perpetrated against unions and their members in the preceding years, these new facilities will certainly enhance the capacity of the association to pursue its mandate.
Another vexing issue that the association hopes will be addressed this year is the need for the authorities to complete its agenda of school repairs and renovations. The preceding year saw the Education Facilities Company Ltd virtually dormant, only responding to emergency situations, where schools were either forced to shut their doors or were in danger of imminent closure.
While funding issues were cited as the major reason for this state of affairs, it is certainly hoped that requisite funds will be released to schools immediately, since many have complained they are currently operating without many consumables that are critical to curriculum delivery.
There are also vexing issues of increments, acting allowances and other remuneration issues (including the marking of SBAs) that remain outstanding for years, causing disenchantment and disillusionment on the part of thousands of teachers.
These administrative issues are like a recurring decimal at the level of the Ministry of Education. It is hoped that the new year will be an opportunity for an injection of public service efficiency in the modus operandi of the ministry to treat with this backlog of administrative issues.
The Teaching Service Commission (TSC) will also be expected to expedite procedures to fill vacant positions across the teaching service with a greater sense of urgency and efficiency. The large number of positions that await appointments continue to be a major source of concern and this ineptitude on the part of the TSC must be immediately addressed.
As we look forward in the new year with a sense of hope, we are also reminded that as teachers we have to also assert our rights, not just defend them, lead with our ideas and our convictions, with solidarity at the very core of our work. We must defend our core values now more than ever, not just for our sake but for all workers.