Yesterday marked the first day of the new school term and teachers who were eligible for promotion two years ago returned to the same classrooms they occupied in 2015.
This occurred despite the High Court, in November 2016, having ordered the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) to review “all applications for promotions in the Teaching Service afresh for the year 2015.”
The order granted by the High Court also deems the 2015 preliminary promotion list for public school teachers “unlawful, ultra vires, irrational, unreasonable, wholly in excess of jurisdiction, unreasonable, null, void and of no legal effect, in breach of the Teaching Service Commission Rules, in breach of and a denial of the principles of Natural Justice and legitimate expectations and ultra vires in breach of the Teaching Service Commission Act, Cap 39:07.”
In December, the TSC said it had decided on “humanitarian grounds” to comply with the order. TSC Chairman Leila Ramson had told Stabroek News that a special full commission meeting would be held early in January, 2017 “to plan the review” which “will definitely take a few months, since a thorough review of approximately 5,000 applications will be done.”
Yesterday, Ramson would give no comment on the situation.
Meanwhile, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) is calling on President David Granger to dissolve the TSC, even as it contemplates having the commission declared to be in contempt of court.
GTU President Mark Lyte in a New Year’s message to teachers had stated, “There is urgent need for the dissolving of TSC to allow for a more competent and energetic commission.”
He explained that the court ruling which showed that the TSC had for 20 years been acting contrary to the best interest of teachers, gives the President of Guyana enough reason to dissolve the commission.
Lyte said the delay in obeying a court order was just one of the many instances of disrespect and abuse teachers have been and are still facing.
“Stalled negations, upgrade for teachers with degrees in areas such as Social Work and Sociology, adequate consultation between MoE [Ministry of Education] and GTU on issues affecting education such as the poor performance in Mathematics at Grade Six Assessment, compensation for correcting and marking of School Based Assessment, duty-free concessions for teachers who were eligible between 2008 and 2013,” all remain unresolved, Lyte said.
He added that the union was convinced that teachers’ interests were not championed adequately at the level of Cabinet by the subject minister.
Also worrying, he said, was the fact that the MoE’s Permanent Secretary appeared to lack the authority to make decisions for the ministry.
“Meetings held between the MoE and GTU often lead nowhere because decisions cannot be made by MoE representatives and there is hardly ever any feedback from MoE to GTU on matters of interest raised on behalf of teachers,” he bemoaned.
As a consequence, Lyte has vowed to be less “gentle” and more militant in the union’s relations with the ministry.
“We wish to see senior appointments and signing of the MoA between GTU and MoE done urgently. Let it be known that GTU will be mobilizing its members to action since we have no support from our employer to satisfy our needs. We wish to say that the moderate, gentle manner in which things were accepted in 2016 will not be for 2017,” Lyte said.
On November 9, Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards made absolute the Order Nisi granted to the GTU by then Chief Justice Ian Chang in July, 2015.
In July 2015, the preliminary promotion lists, prepared by the TSC and the Ministry of Education’s School Board Secretariat, were made public. However, those promotions were stalled when the GTU secured an injunction to prevent the two bodies from producing finalised lists. Based on the GTU’s application, Justice Chang had ordered the TSC and the Ministry of Education, respectively, to assess all applications for the 2015 promotions. They were asked to show cause why the appointments should not be deemed unlawful.
The intention of the injunction, as the union has previously stated, was to have the two bodies review the list. In November 2014, the School Board Secretariat withdrew from the court action and agreed to settle the matter out of court; the TSC has, however, consistently refused to do the same.
According to the TSC, which is chaired by Ramson, it followed “set criteria and principles” in the exercise.
Applicants for promotion within the teaching service are scored on the basis of their experience, qualifications and performance appraisal grades.
The TSC, however, in determining suitability, has also been taking into account the comments of Head Teachers, District Education Officers, Regional Education Officers and Assistant Chief Education Officers.
The commission has argued that these comments provide more “insightful details” on the applicants’ performance and are, therefore, “vital” to the decision-making process.
The GTU, however, argued that these comments make what should be an objective process subjective. It has also argued that several individuals who have not acquired enough points within the objective point system were being promoted based on the strength of these comments.