The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) says that there were several procedural irregularities in the Education Ministry’s recent investigation which found four Queen’s College teachers negligent in the handling of the Neesa Gopaul case and is calling on the ministry to rectify the situation.
GTU President Colin Bynoe told this newspaper that unless the union’s concerns are taken on board, the support of the union in the upcoming National Schools Championship is in jeopardy. “We are saying to the minister and ministry, unless you rectify the situation quickly, we can have severe problems for the smooth running of the National Schools Championship,” Bynoe said. He said that this event has been traditionally touted as a partnership between the Education Ministry and the GTU. The Championships are slated to run from November 9 to 12.
Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon announced on Friday that some QC teachers, including the headmistress and deputy, would face disciplinary action in the form of demotions and denial of seniority for their “repetitive failure” in helping Gopaul while she was a student at the school. Gopaul was later murdered after enduring sexual and other abuse.
“I would safely say about four or five members of staff have attracted the attention of the team set up by the ministry to make recommendations based on the findings conveyed through the efforts of the investigative team,” Luncheon said.
Bynoe said, last evening, that four teachers-including the head teacher- have been sanctioned as a result of the investigation. According to the GTU head, one teacher was barred from promotion for three years, while two others have been barred from promotion for one year.
According to Bynoe, the investigation was initiated by the Ministry without the participation of the GTU, which he said was a contravention of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two entities. He said too that even after the investigation would have been completed, the correct procedure would have required the teachers to be formally charged and a period given for them to respond to the charges. This, he said, is in keeping with the rules of Natural Justice. He said too that in schools run by Boards, it is the Board that is supposed to decide on the disciplinary action if this is required. He said this was never done.
Bynoe said too that the letters issuing the disciplinary orders were not copied to the GTU, although this is required. He said too that it was puzzling that these letters were signed by the Permanent Secretary within the Ministry and not the Minister.
The GTU President said he contacted the Permanent Secretary yesterday to indicate the union’s position and said that he intended to take the matter to the President as well, if an appropriate response is not gotten from the ministry.
According to Bynoe, it is unfair to punish teachers who would have done their best to help the student. He said that he had spoken to the teachers involved and was told of all the efforts that they had made to help the child. He said that while the teachers did their best other officials failed the child including Welfare Officers at the Ministry of Education. He said that it was Queen’s College teachers who first reported the matter in October last year, and he recounted to this newspaper various efforts made by staffers to assist the child since then.
“When they did all they could’ve… are you saying that’s how teachers are treated and they shouldn’t be lauded?” Bynoe asked rhetorically.
Contacted last evening Minister of Education Shaik Baksh said it was the first time he was hearing about the union’s decision. “I can categorically say that this is the first time I am hearing that the union plans to pull out of the National Athletic Champion-ship,” Baksh told this newspaper.
Asked whether anyone from the union had expressed concerns that it was left out entirely from the Gopaul investigation, Baksh responded in the negative.
Meanwhile, he said that the ministry has acted on the recommended sanctions stipulated in the report by the committee it forwarded its investigation results to. He said the ministry has already sent out four letters to teachers, including the former head of the school who retired last week Friday.
Baksh would only speak about the recommended sanctions but gave no further information as to where the teachers erred. But Stabroek News has been reliably informed that teachers at the school had photographs of marks of violence on the child’s skin but none of these were forwarded to the police or officers at the Child Care and Protection Agency (CC&PA). Additionally a forged entry was allegedly made in a log book at the institution in an attempt to cover up lapses by the teachers.
The mangled body of 16-year-old Neesa was found stuffed in a suitcase in a creek at the now abandoned Emerald Tower resort on the Soesdyke/ Linden Highway on October 2. Her mother, Bibi Sharima Gopaul and her mother’s lover, Jarvis Small, have since been charged with her murder.
Last week, Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand said that an investigation into her Minis-try’s shortcomings recommended the dismissal of two officers in the Child Care & Protection Agency (CC&PA) and the demotion of another.