Skills training for teachers Editorial
Stabroek News
February 16, 2002

This must be the worst idea of the century. The Women's Advisory Council (WAC) of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) has proposed, among other things, to conduct skills training programmes for female teachers, in the hope that they will use the skills they develop to help cushion the economic crisis they find themselves in. This proposition is ill advised.

The WAC has appealed to the corporate community to assist with equipment, which would allow the teachers to be schooled in sewing, handicraft and cake making. While there is nothing wrong with teachers acquiring these skills, the WAC must be aware that in the final analysis, schools will suffer more. It has happened before.

Allegations have been made in the past, by parents and students, about teachers selling snacks and doing crochet to supplement their income and the disruption this caused in the classroom.

Even the most conscientious of teachers would be tempted to take their crochet and sewing to school, albeit with the best of intentions, but this would cause friction between teachers and students, teachers and parents, and by extension, teachers and administrators.

Teaching is a profession. A trained teacher is already a skilled person. Even untrained teachers require some talent to manage children. Aside from this, such a move could also be seen as discriminatory and backward. It places women back into a mould they have just broken out of; that somehow all women can do is sewing, knitting and crochet.

And while one grasps that the WAC would understandably be concerned with the well being of female teachers, all teachers are economically disabled.

It is heartening to note though, that the WAC has not lost sight of the bigger picture. It has also called for risk allowances for all teachers, better remuneration, a government medical scheme (apart from the National Insurance Scheme), better working conditions and travel allowances. Such measures will faster ease economic stress for teachers and in a dignified manner. However, these would have to be negotiated with the government as the teachers' employer.

The government had indicated an openness towards making house lots available to teachers. The WAC/GTU may want to consider setting up teachers' housing groups that could request large tracts of land from the government that they could develop and distribute to teachers countrywide as house lots. This would be a project worth placing before the corporate community for assistance.