Our teachers deserve better

Recent moves by the Education Department leaves us to wonder if there is a wolf loose among the chicken coop aimed at disrupting the gains and the potential of the educational system being developed.

I speak of the apparent unjustified sacking or the non-renewal of contracts of a number of our teachers without even as much as a reason being given. This is in stark contrast to the banner of openness and fairness, which was paraded during the campaign of the present government (which they should have been trying to maintain). Let me hasten to say that I do not think this was a government policy but a reflection of what some wolf can do within a government department.

Many of the teachers involved including some known by me personally have had consistently good appraisals throughout their service up until and including their most recent appraisal. They are teachers with no record of misconduct or undue absences. They are teachers who have struggled with our students, who we as parents having one or two to deal with at home have but a glimpse of what the teachers endure when they are all gathered at school. They are teachers who have been encouraging, motivating, disciplining and educating our children.

They are teachers to which Sections 5.12 to 5.18 of the General Orders (2005 Revision), which deals with the disciplining and dismissal of salaried staff, cannot be applied. They are teachers for which no suitable Caymanian has been found. If any of these were so then reasons would be readily forthcoming, there would be justification and there would be no foul stench.

Clearly these teachers are not being dismissed due to poor performance. We must therefore question if it is a case of not performance based results but instead who you know? Is it a case of who likes who? Is it a case of making space for friends? Is it vindictiveness? Why are we replacing the good teachers we have for the unknown? Is it a case of wanting to have more of the ‘right’ people? Is it a case of personal prejudices being unleashed? Is it new found power? Are reasons now going to be manufactured?

Is it an unofficial introduction of the rollover policy in the civil service? Implementing the rollover without true Caymanianisation is futile. From the 40s, the days of Mr. Goring we have been importing teachers into this country and the practice still continues today. Why have we not created a teachers training college? We have imported many teachers from Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. Has there been a change to this policy as well and if so, when and why?

These are teachers who have gone beyond the call of duty by opening up their homes to offer free tutoring to their students. These are teachers who have mentored their students and at times even acted like parents to these young impressionable minds that we consider to be the future of the Cayman Is lands. It is my opinion and in the opinion of many other parents who interact with teachers that teachers from the Caribbean seem to have a greater genuine interest in our children’s well being. There may be some who try to paint a picture that teachers in general are here to earn a salary just like many other expatriate professionals. But to generally want to make a difference, to leave a positive indelible mark on a child’s life is truly priceless and selfless. There are teachers amongst us who have been asked to leave who possess those qualities. There is an old saying that one bird in hand is worth two in the bush. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

But let us look further down the road at what the short sighted wolf and the influenced have failed to see. What is the message that this is sending? What will be the long term effects on the system and the children of the Cayman Islands?

The answers lie in another question. What must be the thinking of the teachers whose contracts will be up for renewal soon and in the future? If they be worth any salt, if they encourage their students to be prepared then they must take their own advice and seek to get themselves prepared for the wolf loose in the chicken coop. Teachers can no longer feel secured in their job here in the Cayman Islands even when they fulfil and exceed their requirements and have good performance appraisals by supervisors. How will this affect their commitment and effort given to the brighter future?

Teachers must be thinking that what has happened to my co-workers may very well happen to me and must make the necessary adjustments and seek alternative employment before they receive their letter, which incidentally came after the usual recruitment period. In other words the present teachers, whose contract will be up for renewal, must place themselves on the job market because in spite of good performance their contract may not be renewed.

This is the greater evil because it leaves the education system in a most unstable position where staffing is concerned. This is even more precarious in light of the diminishing financial returns and the ever increasing appetite of other islands, the United States, Canada, England and other European countries for the Caribbean teachers.

Some positive actions must be taken to rectify this situation and re-stabilise our teaching staff so that we can indeed look towards brighter futures for our children.

John Ebanks

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