Teachers on the island have painted a grim and gloomy picture of the assistance given by the Ministry of Education to their schools.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday, some secondary and primary school teachers pointed out that the Ministry of Education, headed by Anthony Boatswain, has not been forthcoming with assistance especially in furniture and chalk and payment to staff.
The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) called the media briefing to explain to the local media the decision to stage what is virtually a one-day strike by teachers.
The GUT ordered teachers to take the day off yesterday (Thursday) to reflect on damning statements made against them by Minister of State in the Ministry of education, Senator Simon Stiell.
The issue arose after government put a stop to a directive given by the Principal of the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School (GBSS) to ask parents to pay $250.00 for a desk and chair for their students attending the institution.
According to GUT President, Lydon Lewis the union was forced to take the action in “solidarity” with GBSS and to prove to the Ministry of Education that it was disrespectful and irresponsible in its response to the GBSS action to ask for help from parents to purchase school furniture.
“We demand an immediate and unequivocal retraction of the Ministry’s press release and the statements made by Minister Stiell”, he said.
“We are asking that all principals and teachers in the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique remain at home on Thursday, June 1st to rest and reflect…we are going to rest and reflect on the struggles of the many years of fundraisers, of the many years of struggling under difficult and trying conditions”, he added.
The GUT boss went on: “We’re going to rest and reflect and come prepared to take further actions if need be against the Ministry of Education and we are going to further ask that all schools suspend all fundraising activities geared at school improvement for one year beginning September 2017 to July 2018…”.
“We challenge the Ministry of Education to put their best foot forward and put their money in their mouths and ensure that the schools are well equipped and stocked come September 2017,” Lewis said.
According to Lewis, the ministry’s response to GBSS letter telling parents that they should not pay for the furniture was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the current impasse.
He accused the Ministry of Education of not meeting its obligations over the years to the nation’s schools.
“…We have tried our very best to work with the Ministry to have not to create the confusion that the Ministry of Education themselves have created. Issues like the non-replacement of Guidance Counselors in some parishes – St. David’s and others, Carriacou”, he told reporters.
“Guidance Counselors and Counselors are very important in the current education system that we have…the increase in violence in schools, the aggressiveness of both male and female students and the issue of sexual explicit videos and the prevalence of sexual activities of students and to not have Guidance Counselors in schools is an indictment against the Ministry of Education”, he said.
In addition, Lewis pointed to a situation in which auxiliary staff members are being paid their wages by schools and not the Ministry of Education.
“We have Secretaries being paid by schools. We have Security Officers being paid by schools. We have cleaners being paid for by schools with the funds that they raise when we have as Union an agreement with the ministry that they should provide at least in the Secondary schools, pay for the Security Officers on duty and that has not been done in all of the cases but yet still we have the Ministry boasting about policy”, he said.
President of the Principals Association, Dominic Jeremiah who also attended the Press Conference referred to a survey that was conducted among different secondary schools which indicated that the furniture problem at GBSS was also prevalent in many other secondary schools.
He spoke of most schools telling the survey that they have not received furniture from the Ministry of Education in excess of five years.
“When asked what furniture was received in the last five years, most schools responded zero or insignificant amount. We found that to be very interesting in light of the press release and the Minister’s pronouncement on television.
Jeremiah told reporters in reference to the survey among the schools: “When asked what has been your source of furniture over the last five years, most schools responded by saying, some a dribble from the Ministry of Education, but most from Past Students Association, Food for the Poor, Schools initiatives, fundraising and other contributions of parents.
“When asked when last did you receive furniture from the Ministry of Education, most schools responded by saying that except for a few chairs and desks here and there, they didn’t receive furniture within 8-10 years.
“…When asked what is the current need, we noted with grave concern the tremendous need for furniture throughout the system but in particular that of the GBSS since most schools have not received furniture for a long time.
“How much money has your school spent on furniture? We also noted the large sums of money that some schools have spent on furniture through the initiative of Principals, staff, and school communities including parents.
1st Deputy President of GUT, Kenny James echoed the sentiments expressed by Jeremiah that the Ministry of Education has not been providing any significant amount of furniture to the schools.
According to James, the schools have been forced to engage in fundraising activities over the years to help facilitate their functioning, as the Ministry of Education is almost never forthcoming with needed material.
“The case that we have before us, has to do with one of provision and every Grenadian knows that schools are constantly engaging in fundraising venture, be it raffles, walk-a-ton, fairs, Rhum Runner Cruises.
“The list goes on and on – schools have gotten extremely creative because you don’t want people to get fed up with you asking for monies every month.
James stated that in the absence of adequate funds from the Ministry of Education, schools have also been forced to provide for daily school feeding and soaps and toilet papers.
“….“There are no caravans leaving the Ministry of Education with these supplies going around the island to schools”, he said.
“A lot of what should be Ministry’s provision of material is really done by the school”, he added.
According to James, it should be the Ministry of Education as a policy to provide material needs of the school but “in reality, they have not been providing”.
“Things as simple as chalk, things as simple as the books to write your lesson plan, they have not been providing, much less the furniture,” he remarked.
In 2017, government announced a budget of EC$104.6 million dollars for Education.