Laparkan proposes benevolent fund for educators
Eleven receive teacher-of the-quarter award

Stabroek News
May 27, 2001

Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, has suggested the establishment of a teachers' support group independent of the Ministry of Education to look at various ways in which the lot of teachers could be improved to stem the tide of migration from the local education system.

Meanwhile, Laparkan has announced that it will be contributing $1 million towards a benevolent fund for teachers as it seeks ways to help them.

Delivering the main address at the Laparkan, Ministry of Education and Guyana Teachers' Union Teachers' Incentive Scheme first presentation ceremony at the Georgetown Club last weekend, Dr Jeffrey said it would be difficult to pay the kinds of salaries other nations were paying teachers, when Guyana could not afford it. However, he added that he shared the view that the solution to the problem was not simply a matter of salaries and that showing appreciation in various ways could help.

Dr Jeffrey welcomed the initiative and promised to support the programme "to the hilt". He noted that the problem of migration of skills was not only limited to the education system but to other sectors including health, for which he was last responsible.

He said that the country would have to continue to train personnel and hope that some of those trained would remain.

The first batch of awardees of the Laparkan Teachers' Incentive Scheme challenged other businesses to get on board with similar schemes to encourage teachers to remain in Guyana in the face of a heavy demand for teachers in other countries.

Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Bartica Secondary School teacher Seenauth Jagroop said that Laparkan had recognised the importance of teachers to development in society and called on teachers "to take their hats off" to the company for setting the pace.

Jagroop was one of a batch of 11 teachers who received a joint certificate from Laparkan, the GTU and the Education Ministry for their commitment and dedication to the development of education in Guyana, along with a $50,000 gift voucher.

The awards, which will be made quarterly, will culminate with a teacher-of-the-year award. Only teachers who have won the quarterly award would be eligible for the teacher-of-the-year award.

In his remarks, Laparkan Chief Executive Officer, Glen Khan, noted the important role teachers played in his life and in others. Because of the fragile situation in today's society, he said, the role of teachers had extended to becoming surrogate parents for many children as their own parents did not find time for them.

Apart from the incentive scheme, he announced that the group of companies will be contributing $1 million towards a benevolent fund for teachers. He said he hoped that it would go a far way towards helping teachers and would encourage other sponsors to contribute.

GTU Chairman, Bertram Hamilton, who spoke of the scheme as a dream come true, said that though small, it was important. While the union kept saying that government was not doing enough and the union itself was not doing enough for its members, and the executive of the union had sought support from private and public companies by way of letter, he said. The first response the GTU had was from Khan and not by way of a missive but through a visit to the GTU office where he shared some of his ideas. As a result of that visit, he said, teachers now received a reduction in purchases in the home-furnishings and appliances department and stationery.

Thanking Laparkan for its response, he said that for too long, people have been looking at the problems of teachers as being the problems of the GTU and the Ministry of Education alone. The scheme, he said, had come at a critical juncture in the life of education in the country when the Americans were finally in the country to recruit teachers. Recalling that over a year ago those recruiting on behalf of the Americans had made a verbal promise that they would not be recruiting teaching staff from Guyana, he said that during a recent recruitment drive in Trinidad and Tobago teachers went over to the twin-island republic to be interviewed.

At the end of the first recruitment drive in the Caribbean it is expected that about 2,000 teachers from CARICOM countries, which has a total population of about seven million, would have left the region to join the American teaching system in the new academic year. (It is estimated that the USA will require between two to four million teachers over the next four to six years.)

When the vacancies created in the Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, among other countries by teachers migrating to America, local teachers will continue to leave Guyana to fill those places, Hamilton said.

Apart from the USA a number of teachers from Jamaica have left to fill vacancies in England which is also suffering from a teacher shortage.

He said that while the programme started by Laparkan would not heal the breach, it would slow the flow of teachers. When teachers left the impact was negatively felt in the classroom and ultimately in the country.

He urged corporate citizens to go back to the strategy of adopting schools, as was done in the past, to put back in the system what it would have given them to be where they were today. (Miranda La Rose)