Guyana/02 May 2017/Source: http://antiguaobserver.com
A Commission of Inquiry into the Education sector here has found that some persons were engaged in fraudulent activities and were paid salaries even though the head teacher does not know of their existence.
Chairman of the COI, Ed Caesar, who presented the preliminary findings to Education Minister Rupert Roopnaraine Friday, said that preliminary report also made recommendations for financial management to be seriously addressed highlighting what he said amounts to fraud in some parts of the country.
“We were in the Berbice River…we have seen pay sheets with names of teachers who -as far as the head teacher is concerned- don’t exist. We have seen ghost teachers so to speak,” Caesar said, adding that the Education Department must “keep abreast” of how finances are expended.
“Departments must know who the persons on the Ministry /Department payrolls are totally,” Caesar warned.
Roopnaraine acknowledged that this was a serious matter that would eventually require the involvement of the police. However, Caesar advised that the matter be thoroughly investigated by the education department before any criminal proceedings are undertaken
Roopnaraine said that the findings validate the COI’s need, and assured that there is sufficient information for the government to act in transforming the education sector.
“This preliminary report tells me that I was completely correct in establishing this commission. It has begun to do the kind of work that I feel needs to be done. I think this inquiry is in fact going to lay the basis for the kind of transformation that the entire country is awaiting and education has to play its part,” r Roopnaraine said.
Caesar said that the year-long consultations were held in all 10 administrative regions and with all Regional Democratic Councils (RDC), along with other stakeholders. There were also an estimated submissions, both orally and written to the commission with stakeholders sharing their views on the state of the education system.
At an administrative level, the preliminary report noted that there is a need to ensure that the relationship between the regional administration and the education department in all the Regions is enhanced.
Caesar called for an education committee at the RDC.
“The commission of inquiry, the members feel that there must be a structure so established that the education committee of the RDC must relate to the education department, must look at the needs of the region,” Caesar said.
The COI found that there has been a “disconnect” in the delegation of powers in the administrative structure.
“Some people said to us that some of the Regional Education Officers (REO) don’t seem to understand their responsibilities,” Caesar said, noting that the systems that exist to guide REOs lack sanctions. “Unless there is in place a system of sanctions, where people who are not preforming are either removed or disciplined, we will continue on this same road,” Caesar said.
The COI called for a reorientation of officers in the Regions that includes some form of contract that holds the officers accountable to their intended function. “Unless that is done, it is going to be business as usual,” Caesar advised.
The COI also called for the school feeding programme to be re-examined to ensure that the government is getting value for the money it is expending on the programme. Throughout the consultations, Caesar said that parents raised their dissatisfaction over the quality of the meals being given out.
Stakeholders, Caesar said, called for a change in the type of meal being offered. “Our suggestion…let there be a clear and ready investigation into this whole school feeding thing. The commissioners feel that we are not getting value for our money where that is concerned,” Caesar said.
The COI found that the treatment of teachers needed to be improved.
“At every level we must treat our teachers differently, we must treat our teachers better, we must empower our head teachers…let them understand that they can think outside the box, praise their creativity, we must encourage creativity,” Caesar said.
The age of retirement was also addressed in the report. The report recommended moving the age of retirement from 55 to 60 with a provision that persons can still retire if they meet relevant requirements.
The recommendation further suggests that if persons in the education system can “produce a clean bill of health” they should work until the age of 65.
“That is for consideration by the Ministry of Education and its departments,” Caesar noted.
Teachers also raised the issue of emolument and Caesar said some teachers indicated they would like to keep teaching, forsaking a management position. However, the teachers are asking that their salary increase nonetheless.
“It is being recommended that we go back to an old position where there was thinking about the master teacher programme,” Caesar said, adding this programme allows a teacher to remain in the classroom with rising emoluments.