While members of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) are set to continue strike action into the new school term, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has operationalised its contingency plan, which has included advertising for the services of substitute teachers for schools in Georgetown.
Several student-teachers enrolled at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) have already been briefed on responsibilities as “teachers on attachment” as the ministry seeks to mitigate the effects of a countrywide strike by teachers over wages and non-salary benefits.
According to an Education Ministry brief seen by Stabroek News, during the impending strike action the MoE will deploy three categories of “volunteers” to ensure that schools are operationalized: teachers on attachment from CPCE—who are student teachers on teaching practice—parents and substitute teachers.
The CPCE students are expected to execute 11 responsibilities, including “as far as possible” following the regular teacher’s lesson plan, scheme of work and other curricular documents in a way that promotes consistency and optimal learning for all learners.
Other duties include supervising learners at all times during the day, including recess and lunch breaks; maintaining well managed classrooms and positive learning environments; recording daily attendance and punctuality rate of all learners in the attendance registers as well as recording all unusual activities/behavioural misconducts and other issues regarding learners’ welfare.
The other two categories of personnel have been tasked with 9 responsibilities, including assisting with the maintenance of order and discipline in schools in accordance with the principles of the Ministry of Education; ensuring that learners are gainfully employed through enrichment activities at all times during the day; and ensuring that the classroom space is secured and locked at the closure of school.
Meanwhile, the MoE has started advertising to fill the posts of substitute teachers. An advertisement placed on its Facebook page yesterday indicated that “substitute teachers are urgently needed to serve at schools in the Georgetown Education District.
Interested persons are asked to contact the Principal Education Officer, whose number is included in the ad, no later Tuesday September 4 for more information.”
The GTU is still maintaining that it would like to go to arbitration to resolve its impasse with the ministry.
On Wednesday, talks were adjourned with no resumption date fixed when the Labour Department contended that conciliation between the union and the government must be exhausted first. Another meeting between the sides on Thursday was concluded after the union maintained that it could not trust Minister Keith Scott and Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle to be impartial mediators.
“When we left the meeting there were no plans on the way forward, so we await the invitation,” GTU President Mark Lyte explained to Stabroek News last evening.
GTU has said it is willing to call off the strike if the Education Ministry agrees to arbitration and foregoes the conciliation process. However, the ministry and the conciliator – the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Protection – are insisting that the process move forward though conciliation in keeping with “the rules and regulations” of resolving industrial relations issues.
In total, the union has presented five conditions under which the action will be withdrawn: “There shall be no victimization by either party; There shall be no loss of pay and seniority; the extant issues be referred to an arbitration panel; The chairmanship (of the panel) shall be agreed upon before the resumption of work; and the status quo ante shall be respected by everyone involved in this situation.”
The suggested terms of reference for the arbitration panel are to inquire into the dispute that led to industrial action taken by the GTU from August 27th, to receive evidence from the parties and make an award that is just and on the evidence taken, and the award shall be final and binding on both the ministry and the union.
Teachers opted to begin industrial action in the pre-term after government’s refusal to accept the recommendations of a High Level Task Force set up by President David Granger to settle salary and non-salary benefits.
Yesterday President David Granger said that the task force’s report was “deficient” and should not be regarded as a sound basis for proceeding because critical information was not supplied to the committee.
He also noted that the ministry’s plan to resort to retirees and student teachers as substitutes for striking teachers “is undesirable.” “This is an unhappy resort but it is only way we can ensure that our students have continuous education. It is a temporary measure…a Band-Aid not meant to last beyond this present crisis [which] we hope is of short duration,” he explained.