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Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Commentary

Young teachers, the future of the profession

Part II

This week we present the second part of the speech delivered by the president of TTUTA at the opening ceremony of 40th Annual Conference of Delegates on November 29

AS AN education union, TTUTA has made great strides and we must be proud of our accomplishments – among them, a new branch representing tertiary educators, a vibrant retirees section and the realisation of a long held dream of our own Teachers Centre.

Notwithstanding these proud achievements, there are still many challenges to overcome to fully satisfy the needs of our members. And so, at age 40, TTUTA’s representation of its members must be consistent and aggressive.

Our teachers face extreme stress and hardship due to poor work life balance. The implementation of initiatives with limited orientation for teachers, and high demand for excessive paperwork only wreak havoc on the mental and emotional state of our members.

This untenable situation must be adjusted through proper consultation with stakeholders and effective planning by the Ministry (of Education). Our principals as well are often subject to situations where they are not given proper recognition and respect.

The future of the teaching profession in Trinidad and Tobago should be aligned to those strategic national goals which are aimed at nurturing all citizens. At a time when the State is seeking to implement its National Development Strategy 2030, there appears to be no intention to honour educators and administrators, or to significantly improve the capacity of teachers.

The employer has a responsibility to provide meaningful professional development opportunities for teachers. By the same token, TTUTA, being the professional association for teachers, should be recognised as a valuable resource partner to support teachers’ professional development.

TTUTA is concerned that teachers and educators have not been placed at the centre of the national development agenda. There is also concern about whether the level of investment in the teaching profession and the education system will facilitate the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals on quality education and lifelong learning for citizens.

TTUTA is at a crossroads where we must be willing to continue to fight aggressively for our members, for our nation’s children and for our country. This is a fight for our survival, as the capitalist agenda aims to erode our trade union rights.

There are multiple issues which the association views as detrimental to the education system and to the rights of educators. These include stalled salary negotiations, late payment of salaries and contract gratuities to lecturers at COSTATT, and the tardiness and apathy of the employer in addressing the upgrade of teachers, and the payment of increments and superannuation benefits.

Any government which is serious about building its education system would seek to promptly resolve these issues, rather than facilitate delays.

Respect must be shown to teachers and students. We should no longer expect that teachers would prop up the education system by using their own funds to provide resources for students, when the State does not.

We should no longer expect that teachers and students would be comfortable in environments which are unsafe, inadequate or hazardous.

We should no longer expect teachers to be pacifist in those locations where gang and gun violence impact on schools and their operations.

We should no longer expect teachers to struggle to maintain discipline in secondary schools without deans, without the correct complement of security guards and without safety officers.

We should no longer expect teachers to cope without support staff such as business operations assistants, IT technicians, lab attendants and adequate personnel in the Student Support Services Division.

It appears that the State is trying to undermine the terms and conditions of our employment. Questions must be asked about the future of our country’s education system and the existence of a skilled, satisfied and committed teaching service.

Even with the biggest slice of the budgetary pie, is the State making the investments necessary to create and sustain a high performing education system?

What measures are being taken to ensure opportunities for continued professional development for teachers that is responsive to the needs of students, the education system and teachers’ own professional growth?

There has never been a better time to be TTUTA. We will not sit back and wait for things to happen. We will press forward and resist, compel the State to recognise us and negotiate on our terms. We must be resolute. Our young teachers and citizens depend on us. We will stand up and fight for our rights.

Long live TTUTA!

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