By SASHA HARRINANAN Tuesday, September 25 2012
THE Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) is warning of a crisis within the education centre, specifically within Primary Schools, where there is an acute shortage of teachers.
TTUTA is urging the Ministry of Education to act swiftly by hiring more teachers. The warning came from TTUTA’s Acting President Devanand Sinanan yesterday when he claimed the ministry was fully aware of the shortage.
“People have already been interviewed,” he said adding that the ministry is yet to hire new primary schoolteachers, even though the union had informed ministry officials about the, “very acute” shortage of staff at both government and non-denominational primary schools across the country. “This is causing a very serious problem in many of our schools. In fact, some teachers are reporting the situation as being very acute (with) some teachers having to teach double (or triple) their normal class size,” Sinanan told Newsday.
TTUTA’s Acting President expressed hope though that the Education Ministry and the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) would move to resolve the teacher shortage, “in the quickest time” for the benefit of primary school students and teachers alike.
Phone calls and letters of concern, he said, have also been sent to the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA) regarding the shortage. NPTA President Zena Ramatali told Newsday that she had “received letters and phone calls over the past two months from a number of school PTAs about the lack of teachers. “Diego Martin Boys’ RC School, Egypt Village Government Primary School and Blanchisseuse Government Primary School are just three of the schools whose PTAs have contacted me about the teacher shortage,” Ramatali said.
Ramatali then reiterated TTUTA’s call that the ministry and TSC hire new teachers as soon as possible. “This problem isn’t limited to any one area of the country, so I hope the ministry and the TSC can tell us what’s happening. This is cause for concern — our children are being unfairly ‘lumped’ together in large classes because there aren’t enough teachers to go round. That’s not good for them, the teachers don’t have enough time to pay them proper attention. We therefore support TTUTA’s call for action,” Ramatali said.
Asked if NPTA had contacted the Education Ministry about the situation, she said a letter was sent to the ministry’s head office in St Clair “two to three weeks” ago requesting a meeting with Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh. However, as of yesterday, no specific date had been set for the meeting. Upon receipt of the letter, Ramatali said ministry officials told her Gopeesingh was going to be out of the country so they would have to wait until his return to set a date.
Gopeesingh has since returned to Trinidad, announcing the award of 372 scholarships to secondary school students, worth a total of $53 million, during last Friday’s National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for schools at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya.
However efforts to speak with Gopeesingh about the shortage of primary school teachers proved futile yesterday, as Newsday’s calls to the minister’s cellphone went unanswered.