Second vice-president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers A ssociation (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai is threatening legal action against the Ministry of Education.
Doodhai, in an interview with the Express, said if the matter involving the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and the Special Education specialty teachers is not resloved through negotiations, TTUTA would seek the interest of the students in the High Court.
“The new executive of TTUTA has been actively pursuing the matter at various fronts including a legal level. It’s between the Ministry of Education and also at the level of the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO),” Doodhai said.
Doodhai explained that in 2005 a decision was taken by the ministry to close the Corinth and Valsayn Teacher’s Training Colleges and allow training to be solely that of the University of T&T (UTT).
He further said UTT and the ministry established a four-year degree programme with specialisations in primary, secondary, special education and ECCE, of which the first batch of students graduated in 2010.
“The ECCE and special education specialities graduates are in an unfortunate position since there are no ECCE vacancies in the teaching service,” Doodhai said.
Doodhai said the ministry told TTUTA in order for graduates to be appointed to the primary school level they needed to do a bridging course. Upon completion, the ministry indicated the graduates would be elevated to Teacher 1 Primary (T1).
“The ministry sent correspondences to the CPO for this to be signed off. We have been meeting with the CPO and she has indicated the personnel department is working on an internal report and at the end of the month the green light will be given for upgrading.”
In responding to the concerns raised by T&TUTA, the communications department of the education ministry said “graduates are being upgraded according to Specialisation pursued and year of completion. The first of the graduates returned in 2010 and 95 per cent of those who pursued the Primary Specialisation have been upgraded to the status of TI (Primary) while the outstanding five per cent is being addressed by the Teaching Service Commission.”
The ministry noted to date 1,242 assistant teachers benefited from the scholarship programme. “The graduates who pursued Specialisation in ECCE and Special Needs have not been upgraded.
“There being no established positions in the ECCE sector and the fact that for Special Education Teacher I, the candidate must have at least three years experience as a certified Teacher, the Ministry has been unable to pursue their upgrades in their areas of specialisation.”
The ministry said in consultation with the Personnel Department concerning their upgrade to Teacher I (Primary), it was revealed that there was a need for these Assistant Teachers to pursue additional programmes.
That resulted in a Bridging Programme being implemented by UTT in collaboration with the Ministry during the period June 17, 2013 to July 26, 2013.
“Having completed the Bridging Programme, the CPO was asked that the graduates who obtained the B.ED in Early Childhood and Special Needs be considered as having satisfied the training requirement for the office of Teacher I (Primary).
“The Ministry has been assured that the matter is nearing finalisation. As soon as a response is received from the office of the CPO the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) will be approached with regards to having these graduates upgraded.”
Last year, 75 members of TTUTA picketed outside the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, to protest the failure of the ministry to upgrade assistant and early childhood teachers to Teacher 1 positions. The teachers had been promised the upgrade when they finished the Bachelor of Education programmes.
Following completion of the bridging programme, to date their status had not been changed.