Several denominational school boards have come out in support of the Sanatan Dharm Maha Saba’s (SDMS) proposed legal action against the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) and the Education Ministry, for changes in the recruitment process for primary school teachers. They say the move goes against the process laid out in the Concordat.
The TSC, in response to a pre-action protocol letter sent by the SDMS on Thursday, told Newsday the boards had been promised full access at every step of the application process.
The boards which Newsday was able to contact on Friday said they had been informed that they could select teachers from a list of people who had been interviewed by the ministry for government primary schools.
They said their main concern was that they would not be able to determine which teachers were members of their faiths and would be able to uphold the characters, values, and beliefs of their institutions.
Catholic School Board CEO Sharon Mangroo said the Association of Denominational Boards of Education believe the terms of the Concordat are actually being breached in the new policy of the TSC.
“The TSC is proposing that they determine who will meet our needs in our schools, they will determine who will meet the criteria, who have the values and beliefs of the denominational schools, and therefore who are suited for maintaining the character of those schools.
“And then they are saying to us, having done so, you can now choose from the list we will give you. We believe that will not work in the interest of the agreement for the preservation and character of denominational schools.”
Presbyterian Primary School Board of Education chairman Vikram Ramlal said the system outlined in the Concordat should continue to be used as it has been for the last 60 years.
“The TSC didn’t have any discussion with us about changing the system, they simply informed us at a meeting that they were going to advertise the positions, and that we would no longer be allowed to accept applications and submit to them as we previously did. The letter we got advised that they would advertise and do the interviews and then send a list for us to select from. We indicated we could not do that as the teachers might not meet the requirements of our church and our faith in terms of the Concordat.
“We have no access to the application form, we have not even seen the new application forms because when you go online, you can only open it if you are applying, it’s what we call a cascading form so you can only complete page one and you can only go on to page two if you complete page one.”
He said no teachers have been appointed since October 2022, and there were at least 30 vacancies in their primary schools.
“We have classes without teachers, we have had to make other arrangements in the schools to provide teaching for the children.”
Anglican Church representative Denyse Monsegue said the TSC has
“We the members of the denominational board have decided we are not going to let the TSC erode the process with our teachers. There were teachers who we interviewed three or four years ago where all the TSC had to do was to interview them and send a list stating these are the ones who were successful. They changed the whole thing now, they have advertised on their site that for government assisted schools, our teachers have to apply. So all the teachers who had applied previously were null and void and they have to reapply again, so you could imagine the trouble our schools are in.”
She said the board had been hoping to place successful teachers in schools this year, but are now being told to go and choose from a list in the ministry.
“How do we know who are the ones that are Hindu, Presbyterian, Catholic, Moravian, Baptist that we really want at our schools. If there is a list of teachers, why is it not being sent to the boards individually? No, we have to go to the ministry for the list. It doesn’t work that way.”
She said there was a shortage of 155 teachers in 59 primary schools and these vacancies could not be filled currently due to the changes in the system. She said it was important for teachers to be part of the religion as if they deviated from it, they could not be promoted within the school system.
Monsegue said the boards had a meeting with the education ministry on Thursday but left en masse after the minister asked for the meeting to be recorded. She said almost immediately a letter was sent to the religious heads of each denomination asking for a meeting next Friday.
The Muslim Board of Education could not be reached for comment up to press time.