– Shaik Baksh
The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) may be guilty of attempting to aid the absenteeism of teachers in the public school system through its hosting of meetings during school hours.
This is according to Education Minister Shaik Baksh, who noted that this practice will not be tolerated by his ministry this year.
“The union wants teachers to be released during school hours to attend union meetings, and this is taking a toll on the teaching of the schools. We are saying do it after 3 pm (15:00 hours) that is all we are asking for…but they are insisting that they want the teachers,” Baksh divulged.
The situation, the minister said, is of such that sometimes half a day or even an entire day of teaching is lost at dozens of schools.
He noted that, although the ministry’s relationship with the union is considered satisfactory, the ministry cannot afford to allow the current trend of the union to persist unabated.
Minister Baksh also alluded to the planning of school sports, which is normally spearheaded by the union. He pointed out that this planning process also takes up much of the schools’ teaching hours for at least two weeks on an annual basis.
“We want to have the school sports at the end of July, when school is closed…In any case, the Ministry of Education intends to take the lead in the school sports championship activities, and we will call the union on such discussions and to reschedule the time…” the minister said.
He emphasised that when the situation of teachers’ absenteeism is compared on an international basis, the number of hours lost for actual class teaching are so many that the situation is impacting negatively on the learning outcome and the results seen in the school system.
For this reason, the minister said, the ministry must bring an end to any such situation.
It was for the very reason of absenteeism, the minister said, that the ministry was forced to formulate a policy with regards to releasing teachers to attend the University of Guyana, a feature which he believes is working quite well.
The Education Ministry has also been enforcing sanctions, whereby deductions are made from the salaries of teachers who absent themselves from school.
“We are imploring teachers to be punctual at school, because this would affect even the literacy programme. We have a reading hour — the first hour of school — so if they are not present it will affect that programme,” Minister Baksh insisted.
In essence, Baksh said, when there are absences, it prevents the school system from being able to cover the curriculum, which will ultimately affect the performance at the CSEC level and other crucial examination results.
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