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Tim: ASJA parents were wrong

Attempt to block teacher

By Susan Mohammed susan.mohammed@trinidadexpress.com

Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said yesterday the attempt to block a teacher from classes at the ASJA Girls' College, San Fernando was wrong.

Gopeesingh said he wrote to the ASJA board, advising that the teacher be allowed to resume duties since she had no disciplinary issues.

On Monday, members of the school's Parent Enhancement Association (PEA) and ASJA board president Yacoob Ali attempted to stop economics teacher Patricia Mohammed from taking up classes.

Mohammed was away from school for two years while she pursed a course in industrial relations at the Cipriani Labour College, and returned in September.

In November, the school's principal Yasmin Rahaman-Singh was instructed by the Education Ministry to go on leave while a complaint related to Mohammed was investigated.

Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA) representative Indra Ramsingh-Geoffrey said yesterday Mohammed was being targeted because she was a staff representative.

Ramsingh-Geoffrey said Mohammed became a TTUTA representative in 2007 and had the support of teachers at the school.

"Whenever TTUTA has action she would mobilise the teachers (and) whenever staff members had problems she would bring them to us.

"So it is quite a possibility that she is discriminated against because she was a union representative," Ramsingh-Geoffrey said.

Public relations officer of the school's PEA Rishi Sahatoor said Mohammed left the school to pursue studies without properly informing the school's principal of her absence. Sahatoor said as a result, a replacement teacher was not sent by the Ministry of Education to fill her position and other teachers at the school filled in for her.

Ramsingh-Geoffrey said Mohammed had properly informed the school of her scholarship and pursuit of labour studies.

"Of course, the school was informed. She cannot leave the school without a letter from the Ministry of Education that she was released for the scholarship."

Dr Gopeesingh said the Education Ministry has written to the ASJA board and the acting vice principal Cindy Khan advising that "teachers must be allowed to perform their duties".

Gopeesingh told the Express: "I appealed to the board by virtue of Section 16 of the Education Act that they must be under the directions and control of the ministry. The board cannot deny access or entry of the teacher in the school and it is wrong. They must be allowed entry."

Asked if he thought Mohammed's association with TTUTA and her labour studies were the cause of the controversy, Gopeesingh said: "I cannot be intuitive of those issues. I will go on the facts."

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