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….lobbies for termly allowance for teachers, electricity grant
By Svetlana Marshall
Noting that the pandemic has further exposed the inequities in the Education Sector, President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte, laid out a six-point proposal for the advancement of education in a new dispensation as he addressed the Union’s 2nd Triennial Delegates Conference.
In keeping with the conference’s theme “Guyana Teachers’ Union: Embracing New Education Perspectives in a Pandemic,” Lyte, in the presence of Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, made a case for teachers to be adequately equipped with the requisite resources to facilitate effective learning regardless of their geographical location.
“Teachers and learners need devices, internet connections, and allowances for electricity added to their salary. Learners need devices in addition to “Because We Care” packages,” Lyte said while adding that it is time for the introduction of a termly education allowance for all teachers.
As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides in Guyana, Lyte said the need for social distancing and the wearing of masks still exists, and as such, teachers must be adequately equipped with the necessary safety supplies.
“We have seen inequity in this area, where supplies vary from one education district. Teachers do the same work and operate in similar environments but receive different quantities and quality supplies,” he explained.
Additionally, the GTU President made a case for the utilization of new and existing technologies to facilitate online learning. He posited that the school’s curriculum and other educational resources must be converted digitally in the forms of texts, videos lectures, and animation, and made available to address the inequity in the education system.
“Create innovative online education platforms (virtual classrooms),” Lyte further urged, while adding that “teachers can teach their pupils remotely from their homes utilizing various platforms.”
It was noted that some virtual classroom services already exist here in Guyana, however, many teachers are using their resources to upkeep the platforms. The GTU President, therefore, recommended that the Education Ministry provide a paid-for platform that becomes usable for all schools and learners.
He submitted too that Guyana can partner with countries with similar curricula, and even employ foreign digital resources.
“As needed, use all electronic means. Older technology means such as streaming classes on TV are more suited for very young learners or in some circumstances where infrastructure is lacking. Guyana’s terrain may suit this approach with the activation of TV stations, especially in our remote regions,” he posited.
Lyte also underscored the need for teachers to be provided with online teacher training resources.
Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton, who was among officials present, said undoubted the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the nation to not only embrace new perspectives in education, but also in how persons live, work, and socialise generally.
“For many, the pandemic has brought economic and other hardships and uncertainties. It has also made us more considerate of the physical space and comfort of others. In education, as in other areas of human endeavours, the pandemic has forced us to adopt new norms and behaviours. Teachers have not only adopted, but you also faced many risks and made many sacrifices,” the Opposition Leader said.
Norton said the nation is grateful for the services provided by teachers during this very troubling period.
However, he said in education, the country must now cope with the new reality even as it tries to resolve previously unresolved issues such as the unsatisfactory remuneration and working conditions for teachers, inadequate student performances at all levels, and substandard learning and teaching resources.
Norton said the Opposition has been advocating for people-centred development that would positively impact, among other things, the education sector.
“You may have heard of some of the policies that flow from this, such as increased wages and salaries, a minimum livable income, and the removal of income tax from the working people of Guyana. You can look forward to enjoying these benefits under an APNUAFC government,” he told the educators present.
According to the Opposition Leader, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) during its time in Government worked to reduce the number of school dropouts – an issue the Coalition plans to continue addressing when it returns to power.
“As the government in waiting, we intend to reduce the number of students dropping out of school to less than ten percent of the high school population. This is particularly important when it is noted that between 1992 and 2015 as many as 150,000 students did not finish high school. This trend is with us again in the post 2020 period. This cannot continue. This will not continue,” he said.
Norton reasoned that while a small percentage of Guyanese students perform exceptionally well at the CESC Examinations, one cannot ignore the larger percentage of students, who under performs in core subjects like English and Mathematics.
“What does it profit a nation that one or two students get 17 or 18 or 19 grade ones, when thousands of students do not pass Mathematics and English Language? When thousands cannot pass five subjects with Math and English,” he asked.
The situation, he posited, is simply unacceptable. The nation, he emphasized, must do better by pouring the necessary resources into the equitable development of education across the country.
The Opposition Leader also spoke of the need for there to be better trained teachers in smaller classrooms.
“As the government in waiting please be reassured we will remove the disincentives that push teachers to migrate. We will ensure, like we did between 2015 and 2020 that our teachers enjoy better benefits and working conditions.
In fact, teachers will not merely be happy to stay, but excited to play an invigorated role in this development journey. We believe in quality, not just quantity. We believe that we must work with our teachers to build a workforce capable of transforming this country,” the Opposition Leader said.
Teachers, he assured, will be the engine of growth of the economy now and long after the oil wells are dry.