Kids make ‘sacrifices’ for adult school failures
When buildings are ready for safe and comfortable occupation, and children set for schooling, it’s the teachers who are being marked absent. This exasperating reality, operating to bedevil children’s primary schooling, has been acknowledged and, amazingly, all but shrugged off by Education Ministry officials.
In a recurring scandal, the Education Facilities Company annually lets down its client, the Education Ministry, and destabilises the school system by failing to make some buildings ready for the September re-opening. Nobody counts the accumulated cost, psychological and other, of keeping children, furnished by parents with new books and uniforms, away from classes, sometimes for weeks, when their more fortunate peers get ahead with their learning.
As it turns out, however, those with acceptable school accommodation may not be all that fortunate. Parents who expected school programmes promptly to get going must have been rudely surprised by principals’ instructions to keep their children home, since teachers are not available.
For once, their absenteeism may not be accounted to teachers’ shirking responsibilities on various TTUTA-supported pretexts. This time, the unsupervised classrooms result from the Education Ministry’s summons to teachers to attend training courses in its new “integrated thematic primary school curriculum”.
It is of course necessary, and even commendable, for the Ministry to ensure that the primary school curriculum keeps pace with today’s advances and expectations, and that teachers are capable of delivering accordingly. But this step forward is evidently being made at the cost of who knows how many steps backward.
Not only are school programmes being disrupted as Miss and Sir are called away for training, but also no alternative constructive activity can be organised. Indeed, parents have been put on notice that, with teachers absent, “supervision cannot be guaranteed”.
There must be a better way. But in T&T today, such a better way of making progress, without incurring costs painfully to be borne by children, seems hardly identifiable, let alone implementable.
Advisedly, teachers should be trained in their new skills in readiness for the school-year start-up. But, officials say, teachers’ participation in such training cannot be secured during the August vacation. Hence, the course can be run only after the September term opening.
“It will require some sacrifices,” said Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan. He was justifying as “sacrifices” the teaching time lost to schoolchildren. Mr Seecharan also claims “the long-term benefit to our students will be much greater”.
The present short-term pain caused by absent teachers is real, and it is the children who are, untenably, being called upon to bear the “sacrifices”, all for hopeful long-term gain. Such pain could, however, have been relieved if, through better planning, the Ministry had advanced arrangements for staff to fill in for teachers who, for whatever reason, must abandon their classes.