A case for redundancy Editorial
Stabroek News
October 30, 2001

Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, has made a case for Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, and five of his senior staff to be declared redundant.

They have all been sent on leave, for periods ranging from one year to four months, at the same time. And the minister, surprised that this would make front page headlines in the Stabroek News, has hastened to inform the populace, who would have been alarmed at such news, that this would not affect the smooth running of the ministry, which would continue to function as normal.

Detecting a sinister plot by "an individual or individuals to create fear in persons" seeking the services offered by the ministry, the minister assured that no officer was indispensable and if for some reason the officials could not report for duty then someone else would have had to get the job done. No one could disagree with that. After all, the Ministry of Education would not cease to function even if the minister went on extended leave. And where has there ever been a case when a country shut down because a President left or died?

However, this is not a case of one or even two officers proceeding on extended leave. These are six very senior people attached to one government agency. How could they not be missed? How could the running of their departments not be affected, even slightly?

The minister's confidence in his other staff is to be admired. He was quoted in a Guyana Information Agency (GINA) press release as saying: "It will give other competent staff an opportunity to act in these positions, thus helping them to have a better understanding of the entire operation." What, one wonders, was preventing them from understudying the officers while they were on duty, as this too could have afforded them a better understanding of the operation. And if these other competent staff could have so easily been taken from their regular duties to act in these positions, then clearly they could have been released from time to time for understudy.

Two of the officers concerned, when contacted, had expressed pleasure at being able to go on leave. They said that they had applied over and over for leave and had it deferred or denied because of the dearth of anyone to replace them.

According to GINA, the minister said that the ministry had been trying to regularise the annual leave situation, since there was a number of staff with significant amounts of leave to their credit. But this still does not explain why the officers' leave was not staggered, perhaps over a period of a year, since some of the officers named to act for those on leave had just been appointed and lacked the institutional memory which would be needed in some key areas. And since no one had been identified to act in at least one of the posts, shouldn't a programme of understudy and training have preceded this vacation exodus?

Minister Jeffrey, in his indomitable style, has certainly shaken things up since taking over the ministry earlier this year. One hopes, for the sake of the already stricken education system in Guyana, that this agitation proves beneficial.