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General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Ms. Coretta McDonald, is expressing concerns about the future of quality education and its impact on child development as a consequence of the Ministry of Education rewarding persons based on political loyalty not competence, the proverbial square pegs in round holes.
Citing a practice of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government since 2020, the General Secretary said there is “a pattern where many Indian teachers and a few Black teachers, who are supporters of the PPP/C, have been seconded from their schools and are now being placed in the Department of Education to perform duties as Education Officers.”
She pointed out that some of these persons are not even Heads of Departments or Senior Masters or Mistresses, but they are the ones who are now in senior positions, supervising Head Teachers who are graduates, and who would have been in those positions for many years. According to the trade unionist, the Minister of Education is not only compromising education and setting the nation’s children back, but where the persons in the new positions lack the requisite education, training and experience it is “madness in education right now and teachers are demoralised.”
It is of concern, said the General Secretary, that “many of our senior officers, especially the Black ones that have been sidelined, have been moved off the midstream and placed in other places.” Identifying some, namely, “Carol Benn, Adrian Elgin, Lauren Park, Marcia Paddy Gonsalves,” she said “a lot of these Education Officers who have been there in senior positions they have now been removed to places like NCERD, now become ACO Family Life, and all kind of foolishness, as positions are being created for friends, families and favorites.”
McDonald said she hopes President Irfaan Ali’s trip to the United States to meet with officials of the President Joe Biden administration was a lesson he listened to and was prepared to learn from. Notably, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have urged the Ali government towards an approach to governance that is transparent, inclusive and will see shared prosperity for all Guyanese.
These officials “only just touched the tip of the iceberg and maybe what we have to do is to send this kind of information in the form of letters and dossiers so they can have a full picture of what is happening in this country.” According to her, doing this will blunt efforts by “President Ali and others to deceive by throwing up pictures with a couple of Black people they hug to give the impression all is well in Guyana.”
All is not well in Guyana, said the trade unionist who is also Member of Parliament in the A Partnership For National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC). “People are suffering, the cost of living is killing people. Everything you think about, when you go to the market, when you go to the gas station, everywhere you go people are feeling the squeeze.”
The trade unionist lashed out at the non-payment of salary increases to public servants. “There is no Stimulus Package for public servants, there is no thought of doing one or providing some economic relief to cushion the rising cost of living. All you hear from the government is this is a global thing, but friends and family are seeing huge contracts being found for them to do this, that and the other while the masses continue to suffer.”
Both the GTU and Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) have not had collective bargaining with the two-year-old Irfaan Ali government in spite of repeated efforts by the unions to have the process commence. Last month the GPSU took the government to court for disrespecting the constitutional right to collective bargaining.