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GUYANA -TEACHERS STRIKE

PoliticsGUYANAGUYANA -TEACHERS STRIKE

So let’s start with the fact that HUMAN RESOURCES is not only a part but the most integral part of GDP.

We know Guyana is awash with people with tittles that list Economist or related expertise….

We’ll assume that they know that a contributory Human Capital sector is one that is educated to the capability of assimilation of skills across the country’s economic gamut.

That starts with literacy, basic reading and writing, which is essential from the classroom to the cane field.

Any economist, especially one who boasts the title, would know that. Guyana’s Dr. Jagdeo has that title which he uses profusely in the context of his prowess as an economist…honorary or else. And being of the Party and Ruling Arm of Government, we’d expect him to advise the nominal President why teachers are not only essential but critical to the nation’s development and the human resource sector of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

We were especially curious about the 2024 Budget debate as it related to this component of Gross Domestic Product and teachers’ salaries. We’ll point to the fact that Guyana, as a constituent of the World Community, has, since 1967, been a member of United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-UNESCO- which has established a mandate for the academic education of a Nation’s citizenry. Uniquely affiliated is the World Bank which was founded in1944 post Second World War to help with the decimation of social structure, inclusive of education. America, one of its founding key members, is its primary share holder.

All of these factors are related to why expectations of a more efficient and universally qualifying education system in the now, Republic of Guyana, should be both high and urgent.

The allocation of funds for the years that Guyana has been a member of UNESCO was disbursed when America was the primary shareholder.

The bank includes, in its Articles of Agreement, its responsibility to ensure that the proceeds of any loan are used only for the purpose for which the loan was granted, with due attention to economy and efficiency. The current ruling, Party, PPP, which has had the longest tenure in governing the country, would have had the responsibility of allocating and confirming to the World Bank, in all of its former names, how monies loaned for the improvement of the nation’s education system were disbursed along with the attendant standard outcomes schedule.

All this brings us to where we are today, a robust teacher’s strike for a raise in pay. The Union President has remained stoic in his cause. Instead of the expected reactionary tirade, actual facts and some nuance have moved in to the debate. Decades of scripted rhetoric about teachers getting their rightful salaries are getting a closer look. The work of teaching and learning is now being evaluated according to how teachers are compensated and the disparity in salary versus requisite dedication is demanding attention.

There’s a post making the rounds on social media of a press conference by the nation’s Vice President about the 70% working presence of teachers during the school year… which he extends to their weekends off and school closing holidays to justify a denial for a raise in pay. If, per his press conference, only 1400 of the 4228 Teaching Force shows up for work daily, who made this over- hiring blunder?

It’s appalling mostly because he is the economist who should understand the importance of the Human Resource component to GDP and should be seeking remedial solutions rather than making public castigation of the people who are entrusted with the daily well being and building the foundation for education of our most precious resource…Human Beings.

And it dovetails with the record of Guyana’s literacy rate…especially the WIKIPEDIA claim of a 91 & 98 % male/female spread. A 30% teacher truancy could never translate to a near perfect literacy rate.

We’ll confess that we know this source is self managed …but the point is, it is allowed to stand as a source to be cited…inaccuracies, a designed hyperbole.

We know, also, that these figures are self-policing data and are not comprised of vigorous over site by the institutions which provide the aid or loans, nor by the reporting institutions of economic statistics.

We’ll add that allocating more money for school houses is not an investment in education if teachers are inadequately compensated for the role they play in man hours and social influence on students every school day.

And, it is the simpleton’s opinion that when teachers are not in the classroom they are not working…unless the Ministry of Education no longer demands lesson plans, periodic progress reports or tests, in accordance with prescribed goal attainments, to comport with the curriculum.

The focus on school building designs and increase in their quantity is neither a predictor of educational performance nor cognitive output. And we say this because the 2024 Budget was awash with plans for new buildings with novel architecture which means diddly squat if teachers have to strike for adequate compensation.

We’ll segue slightly into the dozen subject exams to agree with education stalwart Dr. Rupert Roopnarine who may be as stunned as we are at the volume of exam subjects sat by students….which demands an understanding of the hours in a school day and the level of mastery passing a subject requires. But that’s for another time…though we tie what seems to be an extended working day into the reasonableness of teachers asking for a matching raise.

Unsurprisingly absent from the budget debate was any push back on Ministry of Education spending proposals in debate line- by- line fashion, by the check and balance arm …the existing Opposition.

And, push back is not post budget political pontifications to the press, for a consolation prize of having said something. Neither is it promises to return to power to do a job you’re spectacularly failing at, in current tenure. Refraining from “vociferous” whatever is good…if not backed up by evidence of diligent research to show why the government- BOTH ARMS– is failing the nation’s teachers and by extension its students.

We can cite some research material to show what was done in 1966-67, and look at the pay scale of 1992 provided by LAND OF SIX Peoples, relative to that period and compare to 2023. The closest year to ’92 we could find for Guyana is 1995. The value of a Guyana dollar in 1995 was just twenty seven cents in 2023….for salary context.

So far the ruling arm of government has shown no correlation to the economy and current salary scale of teachers, how it is pegged to cost of living and mandatory deductions like the National Insurance Scheme.

Instead, messieurs Ali and Jagdeo have been asserting that the people they have hired to equip the nations most valuable assets…its children and learning population… are being shepherded by people who only work 70% percent of the time and are poor role models for their malleable minds. We’ve heard their campaign of derision of this noble profession and even an accusation of the Opposition being a stoker of the strike.

Yet, they’ve allocated billions of dollars to this faltering sector that they publicly flog – like some sort of perverse national blood sport.

Assigning a salary scale is not an arbitrary figure trick. It is a science that analyses the job and its expected outcome and allocates according to a precise scale. Blame for improvident contracts with public employees belongs to the elected public officials who grant them. That would be the ruling arm of the government. And its their failure to provide adequately for teacher’s socio economic needs is what has them- the nation’s teachers- on the strike line.

We’ll skip the history of teaching being a parochial profession, teachers being encouraged to live closer to school houses and government provision of housing for head masters and other select employees, considered as part of a compensation package. We’ll suggest some scholarly readings to determine how this would not apply to today’s Cooperative Republic.

What we’ll highlight is how the colonial system of diminishing the importance of the profession has been maintained post colonization for nothing more than a budgetary advantage.

Denying teachers and a Ministry of education adequate financing may have worked for colonization. It’s a handicap for a Republic…which turns on its economic resources, the largest of which is Human.

We’d love to hear what real, per pupil, spending is nationwide. It never seems to appear as line item in any budget that finances education.

And while we’re contemplating why compensation for the nation’s educators is such a contentious subject at the governing level of the ruling Party, we’re wondering who is benefiting from the contracts to build more schools, to house more children that only 70% of teachers will show up to teach and yield a curious, 98% literacy rate.

Seriously…who’s holding these people accountable… asking the imperative questions??!!.

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