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Address teacher absenteeism

By CLINT CHAN TACK Monday, April 8 2013

NATIONAL Parent Teachers Association (NPTA) president Zena Ramatali yesterday called for an urgent meeting of all stakeholders in the education sector to address the longstanding problem of teacher absenteeism in the country. Ramatali issued this call as she commented on a Sunday Newsday special report which highlighted this issue, particularly in the case of Government schools.

Disclosure about higher rates of absenteeism in Government schools as compared to denominational schools was made during a meeting between members of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) and a parliamentary joint select committee at Tower D of the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre last Friday.

Saying the NPTA has been speaking about this issue for a long time, but no one else appears to be listening, Ramatali told Newsday the time has come for all education stakeholders to come together, discuss and implement practical solutions to address this problem.

She said the higher rates of teacher absenteeism in Government schools compared to denominational schools mean that “students in Government schools are getting a raw deal all the time.”

Ramatali expressed regret that the Education Ministry, TSC and the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) do not seem to be doing anything to address this problem. Stating there are many dimensions to the problem of teacher absenteeism from school, Ramatali said she has visited schools in some parts of the country and learnt that some teachers come to work, but do not go to class. She said the NPTA also considers this to be teacher absenteeism from school. Saying there are only “a few delinquent teachers” in the school system and the majority of teachers are dedicated to their students, Ramatali said there must be a holistic examination of the issues contributing to teacher absenteeism in order to find effective solutions.

She identified a teacher substitute programme, compensation for teachers for days off they cannot take and support for teachers in schools with challenges as some solutions the NPTA has been advancing.

Outside of addressing the contributing factors to teacher absenteeism, Ramatali said: “We need teachers to look within themselves. We need to get teachers to understand that they are molding and shaping lives.”

She added that when a teacher stays away from school, it not only affects the students, but places an additional burden on other teachers who have to pick up the slack.

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