By Patrick Denny
Regions stripped of powers to appoint, second teachers
-following passage of controversial resolution
January 6, 2000
Regional Education Officers (REOs) have been stripped of the powers to appoint, second and discipline teachers under their control following the passage of a controversial resolution by the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).
Following the passage of the resolution, a directive enforcing it was issued by Prime Minister Sam Hinds.
These functions were originally delegated to the REOs by the TSC in July and October, 1986.
The directive, issued on December 23, rescinds the authority of the REOs "to appoint pupil teachers, acting assistant teachers, including acting practical instruction and craft teachers and acting senior teachers," and "to exercise disciplinary control over pupil teachers, acting assistant teachers including practical instruction and craft teachers."
It also withdrew the powers delegated to the Ministry of Education to transfer and second teachers. The directive was issued on December 23, following the adoption by the TSC of a motion proposed by its chairman, Richard Mangar, calling into question the professionalism of the regional education officers in the exercise of the powers delegated to them in July 1986 by the Commission. Mangar has been chairman since September, 1998 and has lectured at the Government Technical Institute and the University of Guyana. He could not be reached for comment yesterday on the resolution.
The resolution has caused the Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), which represents the REOs, serious concern. Both Caesar and the GTU believe that some of the clauses of the resolution may be libellous.
In a letter, dated December 7, 1999, to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Hydar Ally, Caesar described some statements in the resolution as bordering "on libel and are certainly damaging to the character of my officers," and that he would be advising REOs "to approach their union and seek advice, legal if necessary."
Additionally, he informed Ally that "I cannot see my way to attend another meeting of the Tripartite Committee until Resolution No 1 of the Teaching Service Commission dated 1999-12-02 is withdrawn or appropriately amended." The tripartite committee was set up to look at issues related to education and the welfare of teachers and students. The issues which would be looked at included transfers, assignment, promotion, and discipline among others. It comprised the teachers union, the Ministry of Education and the TSC.
Contacted by Stabroek News, Prime Minister Hinds explained that the directive was issued based on the expectation that the necessary discussions had taken place and that the action recommended by the TSC "was meritorious".
Stabroek News was unable to reach Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth who was out of the country when his office was first contacted and then out of office subsequently.
Ally contacted by Stabroek News to ascertain if the Ministry was consulted, said said that ideally at the level of the tripartite committee, the objective was too see if there could be a meeting of minds on the various issues. But he added that he did not believe that the TSC as a constitutional body is constrained by any decision of the committee.
Ally said too, when pressed as to whether his Ministry was consulted before the December 23 directive was issued by the TSC, that the TSC was not obliged to consult the Ministry if it felt that there was no need for consultation. The TSC is a constitutional body independent of the Ministry of Education.
Caesar, however, told Ally in his letter that at no time was he presented "with documented evidence to support descriptors such as `favouritism', (and) `unprofessional' considerations."
He said too that "the Teaching Service Commission has had several opportunities to interact with the Regional Education Officers at the meetings of the latter. Surely some of what they are now being accused of could have been brought to their attention."
Caesar explained that he was not saying "officers have not `slipped' on occasion".
"The question is whether the `slippages' were out of ignorance or deliberate attempts to breach the Regulations." Caesar also questioned the usefulness of the tripartite committee if its decisions are not binding.
He explained that at the first and second meetings of the tripartite committee that it was decided, after Mangar had raised the issue, that the CEO "would issue a circular reminding officers of the guidelines that must be followed in such areas as secondment and transfer of teachers" and that "the Ministry, through its Department of Education, will advertise for teachers and the necessary `shortlisting' will be done to ensure the most suitable people are employed."
Caesar continued that the requisite circular (No 3/99 dated 1999-11-22) was issued after three days of writing, re-writing and printing by himself and George Cave, a member of the Commission.
"The presentation of resolution No 1 by the Chairman of the Teaching Service Commission, in my humble opinion, is a clear indication that decisions made at the Tripartite level are not binding. I have always held the Chairman in high esteem, I am therefore very disappointed at what must be classified as professional discourtesy".
He also questioned the capacity of the TSC to take on the additional responsibilities and suggested that some analysis of the benefits of decentralisation be made.
Caesar said too that he looked forward to Ally's intervention and trusts that a day will come when all members of the tripartite committee "will work assiduously to the attainment of agreed-on objectives along the directions agreed on."
The GTU, in a letter to Mangar, has called for the resolution to be withdrawn and for him as the "mover of the Resolution, (to) do the decent thing in respect of the possibly libellous statements contained in the Resolution." "Failing this, the Guyana Teachers Union will need to consider whether it will participate in any further discussions at the tripartite level."
The GTU said that it is of the view that several clauses of the resolution "may be libellous (a matter on which the union is seeking legal advice) and they seem to call into serious question the practices of all the middle managers of the Education System including Headmasters and Headmistresses (who are members of the Guyana Teachers Union) and who are involved in the appointment of Pupil Teachers, Acting Teachers and Teachers to act in senior vacancies.
It indicated its intentions to "have discussions with the Guyana Public Service Union, under whose bargaining unit the Education Officers fall in order to develop a common approach to this disturbing matter."
GTU General Secretary, Shirley Hooper, questioned the capacity of the TSC to perform the functions it has reclaimed, charging that because of its "remoteness" a number of difficulties would arise including the filling of vacancies in a timely manner.
GPSU general secretary, Joseph Brandt, also expressed concern at the nature of certain clauses in the resolution. He explained that none of the matters alleged in the allegation has ever been substantiated.
"The GPSU takes the view that unless irrefutable proof is provided of the allegations complained of, the directive should be withdrawn."
The controversial resolution, approved by a majority vote by the seven-member Commission which includes Caesar, alleges that the unprofessionalism of the REOs has resulted in "considerable dissatisfaction in the teaching service, among parents and guardians of pupils in schools, in the community at large and the unemployed graduates of the school system."
It says, among other things, that "vacancies for pupil teachers, acting assistant teachers including acting Practical Instruction and Craft teachers are not filled by the most qualified graduates of the secondary school system who remain unemployed due to malpractice or favouritism and other unprofessional considerations."
It also charges that there are too many instances of the appointment of senior acting teachers "being done either by favouritism or other unprofessional considerations and resulting in supersession and general discontent among teachers," and "too many transfers and too many secondments of teachers are being done by favouritism or as a disciplinary measure".
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