Yesterday, at the start of the new school term, much of the country was thrown into a state confusion and division as parents, teachers, and other Ministry of Education administrators reacted to the nationwide protestation by teachers and their union.
The situation at Smyth Street Nursery School was no different. Ann Marie Soodoo, a concerned parent, of Hill Street, Albouystown, braved the pouring rain on her bicycle to visit our Saffon Street office to register her vexation with the state of affairs.
She said it was her daughter’s first time entering the nursery system and the confusion was making it a “very bad experience”.
She was also worried that the confrontation between Ministry of Education’s administrators and parents and teachers at the school, would “affect the child’s brain”.
When Kaieteur News arrived at the school, parents were seen standing in the compound sheltering from the rain. There were concerned and uncertain looks on their faces as they contemplated whether to leave their little angels in the care of the school, that was at the time operating with a skeleton staff.
The Ministry said it was going to utilize the services of parents, but this was not the case at Smyth Street Nursery.
A peep into the classrooms revealed most were empty with only a handful of students being catered to by two CPCE student-teachers.
Also present was Councillor Gregory Fraser, who expressed concerns after he received complaints by parents in his constituency.
The Councillor said a senior education ministry official informed him that teachers in solidarity of the protest had nevertheless attended out of concern for their students but subsequently left because they were forced to sign an attendance book.
A senior education official also visited the school, in the person of District Education Officer (DEO), Deborah Hutson.
SCAB LABOUR AND INDUSTRIAL LAWLESSNESS
Newspaper Columnist Frederick Kissoon believes that the Ministry’s decision to utilize student-teachers is equivalent to scab labour and encourages industrial lawlessness. He said, “It has dangerous implications. It encourages industrial lawlessness by the State, in that it could replace specialist teachers with trainees.”
Kissoon continued, “It defeats the purpose of the State compromising with workers. It means that the State does not have to meet the requirements of workers if it could easily replace them.”
Describing Minister of Education Nicolette Henry’s approach to teachers and parents as “arrogant and aggressive”, Social Activist Mark Benschop said that the Ministry of Education, more so the Minister, has no negotiated in good faith. He added that the reaction to teachers is “callous and cold”.
“It is an insult to use trainee teachers. It is an insult to the students and the population. It is a blunder that will come back to haunt her (the Minister) and her government. Benschop added that the trainee teachers and parents who will be substitutes are being used as political pawns.
“I hope that the parents will reconsider their decision. The President should have stepped in earlier and put a stop to this nonsense.”
The Social Activist reminded that following its election to government, the APNU/AFC Coalition Government grabbed a 50 percent increase in salaries, but has been denying teachers a pay hike that has been long overdue. He said that President Granger had promised teachers that they would be the highest paid public servants, but three years has elapsed and it has not happened.
Benschop said that as a serving member of the PTA at Queen’s College, he is urging parents and teachers to fully support the strike action. He said that it might be for a day, or two, or a week, but it will benefit the country in the end. “I support the teachers. I support the strike. In the long run, it is going to be beneficial for the country.”
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