Education sector has to `make do' with available resources
- Jeffrey By Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
March 1, 2002

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`When you have a house to run, don't you have to make do with what you have? You have to live within your means...' - Education Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey

EDUCATION Minister, Dr. Henry Jeffrey is adamant that the education sector will have to "make do" with the resources it has.

"When you have a house to run, don't you have to make do with what you have? You have to live within your means...", he told the Chronicle in an interview Wednesday.

According to him, the Government is in no position to boost the sector's resources, which, educators complain, is posing a serious problem.

The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) Women's Advisory Council recently continued calls on the Government to put measures in place to curb the exodus of teachers from the education system and the country.

GTU has also been calling on the Government to "make teachers more comfortable".

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," GTU General Secretary, Mr. Lance Baptiste had noted.

Secretary of the union's Women's Advisory Council, Ms. Gem Rohlehr had reiterated that teachers are leaving Guyana for teaching jobs in other countries and had pointed out that the number of teachers being replaced is not sufficient to compensate for those who left.

"Frankly, the exodus of teachers should be attended to immediately...", she had stated.

She said it is known that money is the push factor and that efforts should be made by the Government to make teachers more comfortable.

Huge financial resources are expended by the national economy to train teachers here who leave shortly after to earn more in the developed countries.

The economic pressures facing teachers are of grave concern to members of the Council and according to Ms. Jackilin Butcher, Assistant Secretary Treasurer, the tremendous economic pressures facing teachers are having social consequences.

She said that in addition to their role as teachers, many of them are the main providers for their families and find it difficult to provide for their homes.

In addition, she said, "...the female teachers have to be like other professionals with the pressures of expectations from their communities. They are expected to be appropriately dressed and to carry themselves with dignity even though they often lack the means to maintain these standards."

Butcher said they need housing, improved working conditions, a better remuneration package, a medical scheme from the Government, risk and other allowances, among other things. She said the salaries could not commensurate with the high cost of living.

The Council also called on the Government to provide a medical scheme since the CLICO medical card only allows for teachers to produce the card for treatment at private hospitals with the money later being deducted from their salaries.

But the Education Minister noted that fringe benefits for teachers equal "more money".

"...if I can give them fringe benefits, then I can increase their salary. There isn't a fringe benefit that does not cost money. We don't have the money, what else can we do?"

He pointed out that the education system is very important to the development of the country, but the Government just cannot do more.

"This is a poor country. It doesn't have the resources to give more to teachers and if teachers are leaving for countries that offer much more than we do, there is not much we can do about it", Jeffrey stated.

"...the doctors are leaving, the nurses are leaving. What else can we do? We can't force them to stay. What can we offer them to stay?

"Teachers in Barbados work for nearly seven times more money than teachers here and are still leaving. The teachers in Barbados are already well off and they are still going", he argued.

He further noted that the Government is not paying teachers less because it wants to, stating that "...everything you do in this world is about how much money you got".

He said the education sector received 20 per cent of the last budget, but it is obviously not enough to deal with the dilemma.