Paucity of supplies, salaries hampering delivery of education
-Dr Roopnaraine

By Jeune Bailey Van-Keric
Stabroek News
May 2, 2000

"Planning for a millennium is a more than human scale project for schools without text books, without toilets, without playgrounds, without the simplest facilities for human growth, with all of this swimming in a sea of poverty and deprivation," Dr Rupert Roopnaraine told teachers on Wednesday.

Roopnaraine was speaking on the theme 'Challenges Facing the Teacher in the Effective Delivery of Quality Education in the New Millennium' at the 116th annual delegates conference of the Guyana Teachers Union.

The Working People's Alliance co-leader asked how they could plan for the millennium when there were too many parents who could not supply their children with the standard needs of educational aids and support to education, including good nutrition and where the other main deliverers of quality education, could not live on their salaries.

"So it is unrealistic to talk of education delivery as we need it unless something can be done to put an end to the financial causes of the self removal of teachers and their trek to Botswana and lands not so distant, where, although away from home and the built in family resources on which we all rely, they claim they can find it easier to survive and to save," Roopnaraine said.

Noting that the first law of the market was the ability to compete for the necessary resources of development, Roopnaraine asked whether human resources ought not to be thought of in these terms, assuming that the government had, as it claimed switched to a market economy. "Or shall we obey the market demands in the hiring of consultants and contractors and not in the hiring of prime education resources? Or do we hope to get away with this dual kind of economic reform... in which some resources continue to be treated as plenty and cheap, like the labour of care givers, teachers...?"

Roopnaraine made reference to documents that were circulated at the 'National Conference on Quality Secondary Education', which was held at the Ocean View Hotel, on March 31. He said that although the documents provided some evidence of the "parameters of possibility", what was absent was a record of the deliberations of teachers about their experience and insights in the whole learning process and environment. There was also no input from students or their parents.

He urged that those responsible should consider the rearrangement of education delivery in two components, one geared to the long term, the other to the present and short term. In that way the future will be planned with knowledge of the developing and changing present and the present will be planned and executed with a knowledge of the "invading future" and its apparent requirements.

Addressing the lack of gender correctiveness as well as other perceived shortcomings in the draft Education Bill 1998, currently being circulated, he urged that teachers have to pursue their own reform movement, not only for livable wages, humane treatment and a system of justice but for the democratisation of the educational management arrangements which were no different from the colonial example.

Union President Bertram Hamilton called for major attitudinal changes in the profession.

Touching on the issues of violence and indiscipline in schools, Hamilton said that these incidents were a direct result of the poor interpersonal relationships, high level of stress in the school house, lack of proper administrative support and high levels of frustration. "The union wishes to call on all teachers to rededicate themselves towards developing a higher level of professional behaviour and to serve as positive role models for our youths."

Forty-three retired teachers received awards for their contributions to the profession and Linden Smith of the North Georgetown GTU branch received the Jean Persico award. Bhanraj Hetnarine, an educator for 27 years received the Presidential Medal of Honour.

Other highlights at the opening session were the awarding of medals to Jennifer Cumberbatch and Cheryl Weaver for their outstanding performance in the Faculty of Education at the University of Guyana last year.

The three-day conference included discourses with Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, and Chairman of the Teaching Service Commission, Richard Mangar. The conference was held at the GTU Hall, Vryman's Erven, New Amsterdam.