Staff shortage, lack of funds seen as growing challenges at CPCE

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—-Principal highlighted at graduation

Though confronted by financial constraints and a shortage of lecturers, the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), on Wednesday created history when it graduated its largest batch of trained teachers.

According to the Principal of CPCE, Dr. Viola Rowe, 843 trained teachers graduated during the College’s 87th Graduation Exercise, of which 198 are trained in Early Childhood, 404 in Primary Education and 241 in Secondary Education. Of the recording breaking batch, 198 of them pursued the Trained Teachers’ Certificate (TTC) Programme while 645 pursued the Associate Degree (ADE) in Education Programme.

But notwithstanding the college’s resounding success amid its quest to increase the number of trained teachers in Guyana from 73% to 100% by 2023 in keeping with the 2019-2023 Guyana Education Sector Plan, Dr. Rowe said the Reporting Year (September 2020-December 2021) was not without challenges.

Ms. Jessica Seeraj from the Rose Hall Centre receiving the Guyana Teachers’ Union Prize from GTU President, Mark Lyte, Jessica also received the President’s Award for Excellence

Staff paucity in critical areas and financial constraints due to the unprecedented number of new student intake were among the challenges highlighted by the CPCE Principal.

It was explained that having enrolled 2,664 new students during the reporting period, the College found it necessary to conduct an operational audit to assess gaps in the performance regarding student engagement.

That audit revealed that the staffing complement was inadequate to respond to the large intake of students.

“From the audit findings, of the six broad subject disciplines, Education, Mathematics, English, Modern Languages, Vocational Studies, Science and Social Studies, 21%, 3%, 29% of the first year students were not engaged in Linguistics, Education, and Spanish respectively,” Dr. Rowe reported.

To address the absence of critical staff and non-engagement of students in Linguistics, Spanish and Early Childhood Education, the College rearranged its timetable to accommodate those areas in the 3rd semester of the programme. But Dr. Rowe said CPCE is cognizant that the rearrangement of the timetables was a short term solution.

As such, in light of the shortage, 88 Teaching Staff were proposed for part time employment and seven (7) for full time employment following an interviewing process. Of those numbers, 93% of the 88 part-time teachers were appointed, however, the College awaits the full time appointments.

It was noted too that 17 support staff members were employed to manage the newly installed technology units within the Admission Division. “These staff members brought added value to the college when the college transformed from the traditional mode of face to face mode delivery to online delivery,” Dr. Rowe posited. The College has since recommended that the support staff be given fulltime employment.

Further, the Principal reported that the high intake in students is placing significant financial burden on the College.

“This financial constraint for instance, affected the timely payment of stipend for the April 2021 cohort while their peers, those who are graduating today, were paid in full,” she reported.

Ms. Tamika Alfred receiving the Chief Education Officer’s Prize from the CEO, Dr. Marcel Hutson

According to Dr. Rowe, the issue has been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Education.

Notwithstanding numerous challenges over the years, Dr. Rowe said CPCE, for more than nine decades, has experienced many strategic transformations.

She said today, the College remains committed to a new education dispensation and a hybrid approach involving the use of a learning management system and in person face to face interaction for teacher education delivery throughout its 19 centers across the 10 Administrative Regions.

It was noted that during the reporting period, a diagnostic team was deployed to the College to assess the capacity of the institution to deliver education in a new education dispensation. The findings and recommendations emanating from that study are pending.

However, Dr. Rowe said education delivery was affected as result of students’ lack of access to internet, particularly those in the hinterland and riverain communities. “Connectivity seems to be the most significant challenge to our students for online engagement,” Dr. Rowe said while referencing to another survey conducted among students.

Cognizant of the gaps in the delivery of education due to the issue of connectivity in a COVID pandemic, Dr. Rowe said CPCE, as part of its contingency plan, distributed over 2500 preloaded flash drives to students in the hinterland and riverain regions 1, 2, 5, 7, 8 and 9.

“The internet challenges proved grievous to the online component of the teacher education delivery during the reporting period,” the Principal said. However, she said the college is heartened that at the government’s commitment to ensure internet access via the use of fibre optic cables across Guyana.

Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson said that it is the Ministry of Education’s vision that the college becomes the premier teacher training institution in the region.

He said that it is clear that education is a vital ingredient that provides a way of escape from the vagaries of life. “This benefit has become increasingly important because social changes today take place with increasing speed and affect the lives of more and more people. Education is, therefore, the vehicle through which persons understand these changes and are provided with the skills for adjusting to them,” the CEO said.

It is against this background Dr. Hutson said that the CPCE must be considered as the vanguard and bedrock of Guyana’s education system and must do everything within its power to protect image by producing teachers of quality.

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