Teachers union to engage Jagdeo in talks on new service commission
Hamilton says current body too politicised

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
April 21, 2001

As the term of the current Teaching Service Commission (TSC) draws to a close, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) is hoping to engage President Bharrat Jagdeo in discussions regarding the appointment of the new chairman and serving members.

Addressing invitees to the official opening of the union's 117th annual delegates conference at the GTU Hall on Woolford Avenue Tuesday afternoon, union president Bertram Hamilton said that from all appearances the current commission is too heavily politicised to effectively perform its duties and political affiliation should never be the major appointment criterion.

Persons appointed to serve on the commission, he said, must have an understanding of the rules, regulations and procedures governing education in Guyana; besides a working knowledge of education.

According to Hamilton, indications from the commission do not provide evidence that every member exhibits all these qualities. "It is a sin," he said, "to place this important function of equipping the education system with its human resources requirements in the hands of such persons."

"It is hypocritical for us to speak about fixing education without seriously addressing the operations of the Teaching Service Commission and the way it functions."

Apart from lambasting the TSC on its performance over the past year, Hamilton also took Prime Minister Sam Hinds to task.

One year after the GTU had requested a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the implications of his action in rescinding certain powers of assistant education officers and regional education officers (REdOs), the union is yet to get a response from him.

The TSC, in July and September 1986, had delegated REdOs with powers to appoint certain categories of teachers and effect transfers. However, based on what was termed irregularities on the part of some REdOs, the TSC passed a resolution to rescind the powers of the REdOs in December 1999 and this was consented to by Hinds.

On discovering in December 1999 that the TSC had successfully petitioned Hinds to rescind the powers of the senior education officials, the union wrote to the prime minister requesting a meeting but to date he has not even acknowledged receipt of the request.

The GTU had informed Hinds that the TSC did not have the institutional capacity to effectively make appointments throughout the education system, particularly those in hinterland and deep riverain areas and that headteachers were saddled with the responsibility of managing schools without teachers.

In addition, the REdOs were now hindered in managing the system effectively in the regions. The TSC, the union had said, would not be able to attend to all teachers who would require secondment to attend the University of Guyana in September. And as is traditional at the start of the school year, teachers leave their jobs and vacancies have to be filled urgently.

Where the system could be misused and abused, the union had said that mechanisms should be put in place to deal with those who breach the regulations.

Chief Education Officer Ed Caesar had opposed the rescinding of the powers of the education officers whilst a number of interest groups, including the Working People's Alliance, had called on the TSC to withdraw its decision.

During discussions at the 116th Annual Delegates Conference held in New Amsterdam from April 25 to 29 last year, Hamilton noted that the decision of the TSC had placed the country's education system at a serious disadvantage.

The union feels that Hinds has no clear understanding of the implications of his actions and as such, Hamilton said "commonsense would have dictated that an attempt should have been made to find out what our concerns were."

Hamilton said that among the reasons given by the TSC for rescinding the powers of the REdOs were corrupt practices by the education officers in the regions. However, now there are allegations of corrupt practices associated with the work of the commission.

The allegations of corrupt practices include the appointment of under-qualified persons ahead of qualified applicants, Hamilton said, claiming that the GTU has evidence to support these charges. There are also cases of two persons being appointed to the same position in the same school and there is also a complaint about the TSC attempting to discipline a teacher against whom there was no formal complaint.

The GTU has also reviewed complaints from a teacher who is an activist of the ROAR movement about what he perceives as harassment because of his political affiliation. In addition, Hamilton said that the union was aware that a legitimately appointed headmaster of a school on the Corentyne had been removed to facilitate the demands of the community who took their appeals to the political directorate.

Amusing as it may sound but frightening, he said, was the complaint made to the GTU by a school that an individual turned up to teach on the authority of a note scribbled by a commissioner.