GTU looking bad with revelations of lack of accountability

Dear Editor,

THE teachers’ strike might end up being a blessing in disguise, that can catapult us into massive school reforms, given the revelations coming out.

I support collective bargaining to the hilt and believe all agreements must be honoured. I believe all university graduates who are teachers should be able to own a duty-free car.

Any society that can afford it should make sure that teachers’ pay and benefits, and all workers for that matter, should be able to live in comfort and dignity. But, I also believe in strong accountability for teachers, Ministries, parents and students.

Revelations that the GTU has not submitted financial statements and audited statements for decades make them look very bad. How come all those teachers marching in the streets did not hold their union accountable? They think the government should be accountable because it’s three years since their agreement was signed.

It’s almost three decades and the GTU has not been accountable and transparent for their stewardship with funds and reports. We await the GTU’s explanations. Under the rules, unions are required to submit a “general statement of the receipts, funds, effects, and expenditure to the Registrar before the 1st May in every year and shall show fully its assets and liabilities at the date…”

Audited accounts must be submitted too. So, it’s kind of hypocritical to make the government look bad by resorting to a strike, when the due process and protocols that have to be followed before strike action, have not been followed. The strike action surprised me because the government just gave the teachers some good raises and benefits that others did not get.

If you converted the $25,000 bonus to a percentage that would have made the salary increase larger than 6.5 per cent. If you converted the in-range adjustments for graduate teachers, it sends up the percentage of increase even higher. Free scholarships are available to teachers to improve their qualifications. I think the union has erred in not acknowledging the good faith efforts of the government, and discussions going on to address the remaining items in the agreement.

More shocking is the VP’s revelation that the absenteeism rate among teachers is almost 30 per cent. I understand that the lateness of teachers and students is a big problem too. This is simply unacceptable, and parents and students should not be silent about this.

If teachers are not present at school, there is probably little or no instruction going on. (In these modern times, some teachers still have students copying notes from the blackboard and textbooks as if that is “teaching”).

Guyana does not have a formal program of “substitute teachers” as in the USA. If teachers are absent and late so much it affects the coverage of the curriculum and therefore student performance at the NGSA and CSEC exams would suffer. Many factors contribute to high student achievement. However, “teacher quality” is the most highly correlated factor that leads to high student achievement.

So, we need to be asking why 40 per cent of our students do badly at the NGSA, and why do so many students do not pass five or more subjects. As a nation, how do we move past this unacceptable student performance? How can we improve teacher accountability while we get the government to do its part? It’s not a one-way street.

Dr. Jerry Jailall
Civil Society Advocate

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