Teacher migration

'No indiscriminate long leave to be granted' -- Bisnauth

by Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
March 21, 1999

The Ministry of Education is taking a number of steps to stem the flow of teachers migrating abroad, one of which is not to grant them "indiscriminate long leave," according to Minister of Education, Dr Dale Bisnauth.

The Guyana Teachers' Union (GTU) has reported that over 80 graduate teachers had left Guyana for Botswana in Central Africa earlier this month and that the country had recently advertised for another batch. The Turks and Caicos has also recently advertised for teachers in one of the country's dailies.

The GTU has expressed its concern about the wave of migration and the vacancies being advertised and has called on the Ministry to act on a number of proposals it had been making to government over the past three to four years for improved working conditions. The Ministry and the union held discussions on Friday afternoon.

In a brief interview with Education Minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth during Thursday's break in the sitting of the National Assembly, the Minister told Stabroek News that the teachers applying for indiscriminate long leave would not be granted no-paid leave of absence.

A number of teachers have applied for leave ranging from six months to two years and this includes teachers who are eligible for Whitley Council's leave.

Bisnauth noted, too, that the Ministry was also looking at provisionally re-admitting teachers who had left the system.

Asked what kind of impact the migration of teachers has had on the system, Dr Bisnauth said that he could not say at the present time. "We don't know. When people leave they do not say where they are going, if they are going to the BVI or Botswana or wherever the case may be." What was known, he said, was that many teachers did not report back to the schools and at the present time the Ministry was looking at how many had not reported because they had migrated.

In response to the Guyana Teachers' Union (GTU) demands for improved salaries and working conditions over the years, the Education Minister said that he did not want to link migration with incentives and conditions of work, or whether people were migrating for economic reasons.

While GTU officials were due to meet with Ministry officials on Friday afternoon to discuss the matter, Dr Bisnauth said that if he were a trade unionist, he would be making demands for incentives and improved working conditions all the time. The union would have to make the linkage of leaving the job for economic reasons, "but we can't make that linkage".

He said the reasons why teachers migrated to other countries were not all economic since he knew of two cases where husbands had asked him if there was something he or the ministry could have done to prevent their wives from migrating to Botswana recently. He noted that both had claimed that they had small happy families and that the separation could be a threat to their marriages. He said that he had asked them why was it that they had asked him to help them and whether their spouses had wanted to leave because of economic reasons. They had replied, he continued, that finance had not been the problem.

Noting that persons emigrated for all kinds of reasons, some because they wanted a new start, Bisnauth said that "if I were a young person I might have found emigration to Africa attractive - just because of the lure of Africa itself". He concluded by saying that he did not doubt that there were economic factors as well which would have contributed to the decision of teachers to migrate, a matter which the ministry would have to continue investigating, but he emphasised that economic factors were not the only reason.

To all the teachers applying for posts overseas, he said, "Well, I wish them luck."