DAY two of the teachers strike has proven to be more effective than the first as many schools remained closed yesterday, while others were forced to send pupils home early for a second time.
"In short, the call to stay away has been successful," said Sat Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), referring to the appeal by the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) for its members to "rest and reflect" Thursday and Friday in protest over the slow pace of negotiations with the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO).
Maharaj, who oversees the management of 48 Hindu schools throughout Trinidad, said only six schools had normal operations yesterday.
"The largest attendance was at our school in Monroe Road, Bejucal. Other schools had no children because parents took heed of the call for them to keep their children home, while other schools had no teachers," he said.
Maharaj added that at Shiva Boys Hindu College and Lakshmi Girls Hindu College there was a large turnout of pupils.
Yacoob Ali, president of the Anjuman Sunnat-Ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA), said from his reports, they had a "fairly good turnout" at all of their schools.
Asked about classes ending early yesterday, he said "that is normal".
"Because it is Jummah (Muslim Friday prayer), most of the schools over half day," he said.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Education said their preliminary data suggested that an average of 25 per cent of primary school teachers and 35 per cent of secondary school teachers came out to work.
The Ministry further chastised TTUTA for taking "away three days of children's education" in the first ten days of the new school year, saying it was regrettable that the education of the nation's students has now become collateral damage in this ongoing dispute between TTUTA and the CPO.
In the statement, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh called on the teachers to show dedication and commitment to the students who fall under their charge and ensure that their welfare and the education sector remain a priority.
He also called on TTUTA to ensure that "this situation never recurs".
But the Teachers Association has issued another call to teachers, asking them to be prepared in the event they need to take more action.
Citing that more than 90 per cent of the teachers employed throughout the country adhered to the call to stay home and "rest and reflect", TTUTA third vice-president Orville Carrington said that was not enough.
"Spread the message, the mobilisation should continue among yourselves at the schools because those who go out to school, and we understand there was some 75 per cent yesterday (Thursday), and 90 per cent today (Friday)...but if we call again, all schools must shut down," he said.
Carrington, who headed the negotiations with the CPO yesterday, said he believes the psychological effect of the protest action over the past two weeks was taking its toll on the employer as yesterday's round of negotiations showed a "slight softening" in what was described as "the normal dogmatic positions that would have been adopted".
Addressing the small contingent of protestors gathered on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain, in front of the CPO's office yesterday, Carrington said:
"This was a message to the Chief Personnel Officer and I think it has worked, although we would not have reached consensus on the bargaining table today, what we have sensed is a shift in the mood to the discussions and we believe that is very important, so we think today is more psychological than anything else...I think that is important and I think that we came about because of your action last Friday and your action (yesterday) and your impending actions, because let me say, we will be having a general council meeting on Monday and the general council will give us some direction as to how we should continue to pursue this matter."
TTUTA president Roustan Job added that while he hoped negotiations would be settled as soon as possible, their decision to stay away from the classrooms was just as difficult for them as it was for the parents and pupils.
"We had things to do to ensure that we get a better day for our teachers and that must be recognised at all times...we have bleeding hearts, we were reluctant to leave our classrooms but we have been pushed to that limit," he said.
Job added that if the CPO did "not settle with the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association in a timely fashion" they would continue with their action.
He further asked for them to ready themselves and gather support.
"When you go back to your relevant districts and schools, you have to get other people ready, we must be ready," he said.
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
The Ministry of Education reported that preliminary data suggest that an average of 25 per cent of primary school teachers and 35 per cent of secondary school teachers came out to work yesterday, Friday, September 14.
Average absenteeism %:
Friday September 7
Primary school: 64
Secondary school: 49
Thursday September 13
Primary school: 64
Secondary school: 54
Friday September 14
Primary school: 75
Secondary school: 65