'R&R' reflects no philosophy
R&R: "rest and reflect" or "rest and relaxation"—not much difference for the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA). We do not disagree that teachers must be justly paid, which is quite different from being "well paid", an expression that is not found in Catholic social doctrine.
Roberta Pyke related the heart-rending conditions under which teachers in the North Coast work, and its impact on educational progress (Catholic News, August 19), not to mention the immense disappointment over the repair of only 77 schools out of more than 200 scheduled for renovations.
But is R&R the best TTUTA can come up with? Not "for justice and right" or "children first, politics after", not even "for bread and butter", but "rest and reflect"—which John Public easily translates as "rest and relax" or "rest and lime". Not only is TTUTA's timing bad—just coming out of the "rest period" of July/ August—but its tagline implies no educational philosophy beyond being well paid.
In a country where boys are consistently underperforming and too many parents disregard the importance of education, what message does "rest and reflect" send? And reflect on what? Did TTUTA give its members any suggestions?
Teaching is a very unique profession, one in which salaries are always playing catch-up.
Teaching is not like law, medicine and engineering, where the practitioners are more often than not well paid. It is more prestigious than these, but will never have the salary equivalents.
By its very nature, it is sacrificial, demanding, tiring, frustrating, not held in high esteem and lacking salary parity. Yet the best teachers persist because their fulfillment lies in the accomplished task of forming the mind.
It carries with it an innate sanctity, as founders of religions were invariably teachers. Nor is it cogent to argue, at this stage of our development, that the difficulty of the job necessarily demands higher wages.
Rather, TTUTA should be encouraging teachers to think of ways in which the social problem of an increasing number of children and parents with little or no interest in education can be arrested.
The Minister of Finance has spoken about running a deficit budget for the next five years. If his words are true, what implications do they have for wages in general, and what kind of national ethic should they engender?
For this to work, Government must show itself above-board. Corruption, or perceived corruption, only compounds the problem. For Catholic teachers, there is an added problem. If R&R occurs next Friday, it will take place on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, which bespeaks sacrifice and self-denial.
What message will Catholic teachers send if they abandon their posts on a day that reminds us that the Teacher sacrificed himself for us, especially the impoverished and alienated?
Fr Martin Sirju