The Regional Education Officers

Stabroek News
January 9, 2000

In last Thursday's edition of Stabroek News a report was carried stating that Regional Education Officers (REdO's) had been stripped of the power to appoint, second and discipline teachers under their control following the passage of a resolution of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC). After the resolution had been passed, a directive enforcing it was issued by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds. The REdO's had been appointing teachers, etc., since as far back as 1986, when the authority was originally delegated to them by the TSC.

That authority was rescinded following a motion introduced by Chairman of the TSC, Richard Mangar, which called into question the professionalism of the regional education officers in the exercise of their powers. In an invited comment which was published in our edition of yesterday, Secretary to the TSC, Conrad Kendall, told reporters that the revoking of the powers of the officers had come against a background of reports of malpractice in at least two regions, namely Regions 6 and 3.

It has to be noted that the resolution was not passed by the TSC unanimously, and Chief Education Officer Ed Caesar who sits on the commission, for one, has come out openly against the move. He has been joined in his opposition by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the latter of which represents the REdO's. In a letter dated December 7, 1999 to Permanent Secretary Hydar Ally, Mr Caesar described some statements in the resolution as bordering on libel, and "certainly damaging to the character of my officers." He would be advising the REdO's, he said, to approach their union and seek legal advice if necessary.

The language of the resolution was clearly unacceptable, but then so was its import. The first thing that has to be said about it is quite simply that the TSC does not have the staff to be able to take over all the duties in relation to teaching appointments which the regional officers have been performing for so long. If they attempted to do it, the whole system would grind to a standstill.The very best that would happen is that there would be unconscionable delays; hinterland schools are often difficult to access as things stand, and communcation problems will be compounded if everything has to be done from Georgetown. Some REdO's told this newspaper that appointments to areas in the Upper Mazaruni, Kaikan, the Pakaraimas, Kamarang, the Barima and Barama Rivers would become much more problematic, since these areas could not be contacted by telephone or radio. The uplifting of appointment letters, and the like, therefore, might become a major adventure.

The second thing is that after all the hype about democratization and decentralization, the TSC has just taken a retrograde step. Instead of strengthening the regional authorities, the commission has undermined them. The third thing is that only certain REdO's, it seems are giving cause for concern, and if that is so, why insult the entire body of officers. Last, but not least, of course, is the obvious point that even if allegations of malpractice can be substantiated, the way to deal with the problem is not for the TSC to take back its powers, but for the offending officers to be investigated, disciplined or charged, as the case may be.

What the TSC has done, is to create a recipe for delay, confusion and gross inefficiency. Surely that is not what it had in mind.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples