THE NEW TODAY welcomes government’s stated intention to tackle head-on the issue of the Temporary Teachers within the public service.
The problem has been around for several years and successful administrations have turned a blind eye to the subject matter thus leaving it to become very cancerous.
As far as this newspaper is concerned those now in charge of the nation’s affairs must have the political will and commitment to take the bold steps and decisions to bring an end to the issue of these temporary teachers who are floating in the system.
The solutions that are needed must be found within the context of government’s own Structural Adjustment Programme in order to put our serious fiscal situation in good order.
The current staffing level of our teachers needs to be re-looked in light of existing statistics within the Ministry of Education which point to a number of anomalies in the system.
Grenada is too poor financially to engage in hiring persons just to give them a work. Sorry, this island lacks the resources to fall into the category of a welfare state.
Our information is that too many schools around the island are heavily over-staffed while others are suffering from a serious shortage of teachers given their high student population.
A typical example is the school at Vendomme in St. George North-east which has less than 100 students enrolled but still has an almost full compliment of teachers as if the school had a population of 300 to 400 primary school students.
Even on the sister isle of Petite Martinique, we have heard reports of the school up there having about 15 students and eight teachers assigned to it. This is madness.
There is a universally accepted ratio for the amount of teachers per students in the school system. It is somewhere in the vicinity of one teacher to every 25-28 students.
So how can 8 teachers be assigned to 15 students at a school in Petite Martinique? This has to be addressed by the policymakers.
In addition, over the years the very officials within the Ministry of Education have helped to swell the numbers of Temporary Teachers in the system.
A number of persons will leave the classroom to qualify as teachers by attending the College at Tanteen or elsewhere and the Ministry of Education will appoint temporary teachers to fill the vacancies.
However, when the qualified teachers return to their respective schools to resume their substantive positions, the Temporary Teachers who should have been sent home are kept on the job thus helping to swell the numbers.
It is also not unusual for a School Principal to make a specific request to the Chief Education Officer (CEO) for his/her Temporary Teacher to remain because of a perceived shortage of staff at the school and the request is often granted.
No one knows the criteria that is used by the CEO in the Ministry of Education to keep that Temporary Teacher at the school. Is it done on the basis of friendship?
Our governments over the years should also share some of the blame for the problem. They have seemingly sought to purse a deliberate policy of hiring teachers only on a temporary basis in order to avoid having to pay them any form of pension and gratuity at the end of their tenure since that will be too costly to the taxpayers.
In addition, some of the parents are indirectly responsible for the problem. A number of them work in St. George’s and would do anything to get their kids into a primary school that is in close proximity to their workplace.
As a result several of the schools outside the St. George’s area become under-populated although they already have a full compliment of teachers.
The policymakers in the country need to take a bold political decision to send a clear message to parents who live outside of the capital city that they should send their children to a school near to where they live in order to fully utilise those out of city schools.
If this cannot be done then the more prudent thing is for the government to close some of these schools because of being heavily under-populated. Why continue to finance a school that has a student population of 60-70 students?
The policy of sending a child to a school near to where he/she lives is already in place in the case of those students who move out of the primary schools and are allotted places in our Secondary Schools every new school year.
However, THE NEW TODAY has concerns about the ability of the current Minister of Education, Anthony Boatswain to adequately tackle the problem.
Academically, Mr. Boatswain is sound but over the years he has been found out to be a non-performer with whatever assignment has been given to him under previous administrations run by the New National Party (NNP) of PM Keith Mitchell.
It is no secret that the Europeans had informed former Prime Minister Nicholas Brathwaite that they will not extend Mr. Boatswain’s contract as a Macro-Economic Planner in the Ministry of Finance during the 1990-95 period because of non-performance on the job.
The Prime Minister is on the right track with his mission to tackle the Temporary Teachers issue in the school system but he would need to appoint a Trouble Shooter to arrest the problem and not leave it up solely to his under-performing Minister of Education.