Ally calls teacher recruitment `pirating' By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
January 24, 2002

PERMANENT Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Hydar Ally has described the recent recruitment of Guyanese teachers to work in the United States as "pirating."

Explaining to the Chronicle what he meant, Ally said huge financial resources are spent on training teachers and afterwards they are lured away by the developed countries. Therefore, while resources are expended by the national economy, developed countries usurp the benefits.

However, Ally pointed out that apart from Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica are also affected by the migration of teachers and for that reason, he feels the matter should be addressed at a regional level to find a solution.

With low remuneration for teachers being a contributory factor to the problem, he said salaries have to be addressed in the context of what the national economy can afford. He pointed out that despite limited financial resources, pay has been continuously increasing while efforts are being made to provide non-financial benefits like low cost house lots.

Ally added that a teacher just out of training college receives a salary of nearly $40,000 a month, which is more than what a university graduate would earn on entering the public service.

The Permanent Secretary, however, admitted that this does not mean all is well with teachers and they do not deserve better remuneration, acknowledging that limited financial resources was the major difficulty.

Noting that there was no simple solution to the problem, Ally stated, "I think it has to be dealt with at a macro-level."

Former Education Minister, Mr. Deryck Bernard who attended the recruitment meeting at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown last week, was reported to have said that during the People's National Congress (PNC) administration under which he served there were problems. "But we never had anything as disgusting and obscene as this. The whole of Pegasus is crawling with all our teachers just trying to get out."

Education Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, however, totally rejected Bernard's statement, telling the Chronicle, "the statement attributed to Mr. Deryck Bernard is one of the most dishonest and insane one I have heard for some time."

"Was Mr. Bernard saying that our citizens, teachers included, did not leave in large numbers during the PNC's period in office? Would he have us believe that had a similar opportunity existed, the result would not have been possibly worse? If so Mr. Bernard was not living in Guyana!"

He added: "The only possible truth emanating from his statement is that during the PNC era only the most brave souls would have ventured so close to the Pegasus. Mr. Bernard will have to do much better if he wishes to create the political momentum to replace Mr. Hoyte as leader of the PNC."

Jeffrey also said teachers want to leave because the Government cannot afford to pay the salaries they want.

General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Mr. Lance Baptiste told the Chronicle that the migration of teachers "did not start now."

"It started many years ago during the previous Government, when a lot of our teachers migrated to Caribbean countries."

He said the union, recognising the escalating problem, urged the Ministry of Education to implement measures to rectify the situation. Among the proposals the GTU put forward were the provision of low cost housing, favourable loan facilities at the banks, duty free concessions for cars and discount facilities at business enterprises.

With respect to the latter, Baptiste said the union on its own initiative has been able to get such a facility at a few enterprises, among them Laparkan and Nigel's Supermarket.

He said so far there has not been a positive response from the ministry on the proposals.

Baptiste declared that teachers need to live with dignity and a comfortable living standard so that they feel appreciated and wanted.

Most of the teachers do not really want to leave but they take a chance because they see others go and come back in two or three years and are able to buy a house and or a car and live a comfortable life - "something which most teachers after 30 or more years in the profession cannot afford," Baptiste pointed out.

In response to the position of paying salaries in accordance with what the national economy can afford, he said when the teachers go to the business place to buy, that factor is not taken into consideration.

"They have to pay the same prices as everybody else," he contended.