No funds, shortage of teachers at board schools

It's been more than a year since denominational schools received direct funding from government and officials now say they are fed up with the burden of raising funds to run their schools.

In a letter sent to the Education Minister Anthony Garcia, public relations officer of the Association of Denominational Boards of Education, Satnarayan Maharaj said a meeting was held last week during which officials expressed serious concerns on the failure of the Ministry of Education to address the funding issue.

"Denominational Primary Schools, have not received 'Direct Funding' since March 2017. These funds are used for purchasing basic items such as toilet paper, cleaning materials, and stationery. As a consequence a lot of teaching time has been lost as principals and teachers struggle to raise funds to acquire the basic necessities to keep their schools running," Maharaj said.

He added that secondary schools have also faced serious cash flow problems because the Ministry has failed to make releases on time.

With regard to staffing, Maharaj said many schools are without teachers as the Ministry of Education had failed to make appointments based on recommendations of the Boards. 

"Assistant Teachers Primary have to be interviewed by the Ministry of Education but cannot be appointed because the Teaching Service Commission has not ratified the results of the interviews. The bureaucratic nightmare has left many classes without teachers. Both the Ministry of Education and Teaching Service Commission must resolve this situation immediately," Maharaj said.

Lamenting that very few schools were repaired during the July/August vacation, despite 'Scopes of Work' being done for schools, Maharaj said the 6.9 magnitude earthquake which occurred on August 21 triggered a further crisis.

" Despite assessment by structural engineers no work has started in many of these schools," he said.

Maharaj said there have also been problems with the promotion of administrative positions.

"We are concerned with the failure of the Teaching Service Commission to fill the administrative position in many primary schools. The many vacant positions of Vice Principal, Senior Teacher and Head of Department were advertised in February 2016 yet to date, a few months short of three years, no interviews have been held by Teaching Service Commission," he said.

He also noted that the school Building Programme had stopped over the past three years.

"Many sites are now abandoned and covered in grass and inhabited by rats, jack-Spaniards, and mosquitoes.  These unfinished buildings are being vandalized," he said. Maharaj said the Association is calling on Garcia to give an urgent update on these projects.

Last week students of Forest Reserve Anglican school in Fyzabad staged protests over deplorable conditions. Several other schools including Barrackpore East Secondary have been raising funds through the PTA to fix their school.

Efforts to contact Garcia and Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan for comment proved futile. However, a source at the Ministry said the Direct Funding cheque was sent to the bank so school principals will be able to get financial assistance to run their schools.

- by Radhica De Silva