The taxi driver engaged me in a most accusative manner, as if I were responsible for his son having dropped out of school. He begun to tell me about the shortcomings he saw in the (public) education system, while aggressively defending what might have been his son’s own performance deficits. But he came to what, in the context of his harangue, was the climactic conclusion that if his son’s teachers were better paid, and given better working conditions, his son would not have been so demoralised as to give up on school. To ensure a safe journey I acknowledged his position on the matter, before disembarking.
As it turns out the very same argument is being made in the press about male student dropouts after primary school, implying a significant entry into a youthful population afflicted by rampant indiscipline, and becoming vulnerable to an environment of crime of varying dimensions. It is a situation that occasions more than just academic debate. Rather, it demands urgent examination, with a view to curtailing the spread of this substantive delinquency, and effectively preventing further deterioration, possibly, even of future careers.
So that, like my taxi driver, one is forced to consider the reality of the connection between the employment conditions (including primarily salaries) of teachers at all levels of the public education system and the perceived depletive social repercussions, moreso at a time when all are about to experience a substantive economic and organisational restructuring of the society.
Indeed, one expects that attention is already being given to strategising how the education delivery system will be reorganised to address challenging demands for the preparation of the student population to access new and different types of employment in an oil and gas economy. In circumstances that almost constitute an emergency, it seems reasonable for both the employers and the Guyana Teachers’ Union to come together to conduct some very focused brainstorming about education’s future prospects.
On the other hand, however, the recent protestations from the GTU hardly support the hope that the now disengaged parties could possibly sing from the same sheet. The fact is that in the history of the larger public service, teachers under the Teaching Service Commission, have consistently been treated as stepchildren, particularly during the last administration, when they did not benefit from the almost automatic annual increases granted to those who graduated from their tutelage into the employment of the Public Service Commission.
In terms of comparabilities in job structures the following should be of some interest.
Teacher Aide, Acting Teacher and Pupil Teacher are at fixed salaries, the highest being $65,647, as compared with a maximum salary of $67,339 for such Public Service positions as Vehicle Driver, Porter, Typist/Clerk (without typewriter), Machine Operator.
A Pupil Teacher II earns a fixed salary of $70,460 as compared with Public Service Jobs of Caretaker III, Driver Mechanic, Data Processing Operator in a scale ranging from $62,817-$71,136.
A Temporary Qualified Master III whose salary scale is $70,503-$78,434 competes with jobs such as Stock Verifier, Storekeeper II & III, Audio Visual Technician – all in scale $71,951-$90,604.
A Non-Graduate Senior Assistant Master in scale $115,433-$121,839 concedes to public servants – including School Welfare Officer, Assistant Work Study Officer, Coordinator, Book Distribution Unit, who are in scale $95,381-$133,432.
The pattern of disparity continues, so much so that between the levels of Chief Instructor, GITC, Deputy Principal CSHE, Graduate Heads Grade C Nursery, Graduate Heads Grades B and A, 6th Form School and Deputy Principal, GTI, LTI, the minimum of the lowest scale is $204,945 while the maximum of the highest scale is $264,981 – a range that is covered by one scale in the Public Service of $207,093-$337,911, within which are included the following comparator positions – Schools Inspector; Regional Education Officer; Head, Physical Education Unit; Superintendent of Examinations.
The latter scale amply covers the so called ‘Special’ fixed salary of $278,783 paid to Principals, CPCE, GTI, NATI, LTI.
The above deficits apart, there is the remarkable anachronistic institutionalisation of the following:
Temporary Unqualified Assistant – TS2(A)
Temporary Qualified Master III – TS2(B)
Temporary Qualified Master II – TS2(C)
Temporary Qualified Master I – TS3
How does one deal with a conundrum which speaks to being permanently ‘Temporary’, while qualifying for a pension?
The so called Scales TS 1A to TS 1D are in fact fixed salaries.
As far as the periods of service they can represent are concerned, there is no hope of a salary increase. In any case the spread between the (putative) minimum (TS 1A) $61,893 and maximum (TS 1D) 70,460 is a mere 12.2%, however irrelevant it appears.
What is not irrelevant however, is the narrow spread of the other scales, with 12.9% in TS 14 being the widest. Few of them leave room for say a 5% increment for more than one year. In any case annual increments have been long outdated in public sector agencies. Following are current scales.
Hopefully, what the reported Task Force would have reflected on is the extent to which the various levels of comparator public service job-holders are required to produce deliverables aimed at achieving targets as teachers must do.
Would somebody please bear the taxi driver’s anguish in mind?