Education COI unearths non-existent teachers on payroll in Region 10

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Chairman of the COI into the education system, Ed Caesar presenting the preliminary findings report to Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine in the presence of other members of the COI

The preliminary report of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) launched into the state of the education sector of Region 10 has revealed that there are several non-existent teachers collecting salaries from the Government.

Greater vigilance has therefore been urged at the level of the Regional Education Department.

“We were in the Berbice River, and we have some concerns about what is happening. We have seen pay sheets with names of teachers who, as far as the head teacher is concerned, do not exist…and (the regional education) department must monitor and know who the persons on the payroll are,” Commission Chairman Ed Caesar has informed.

He also said the commission has found that ‘ghost teachers’ are being transferred from ‘ghost schools’ and are being added to the payroll.

Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, informing that the issue is criminal, has said the findings would be turned over to the police for investigation.  “This is a police matter,” he said. “This is high fraud and it should be dealt with. And I think this is something beyond the Ministry of Education and requires the attention of people who are trained to investigate (such issues).”

The education department that presides over matters affecting Berbice riverine communities is managed by the regional administration of Region 10, according to a source from that department, who explained that education is administrated at a regional level, and therefore the administrators of Region 10 would be able to explain the instance of “ghost teachers”.

Efforts to contact Region 10 Chairman Renis Morian have been unsuccessful.

The preliminary report of the CoI was handed over to the Education Minister on Friday, and the final report is expected to be handed over within the next two or three weeks.

The CoI was launched in 2015 to determine what is lacking and to recommend measures that could be implemented to improve the education sector for persons countrywide.

There have been 98 consultations across the country, with presentations and submissions from all stakeholders.

At an administrative level, the 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.

The COI also found that the treatment of teachers needs to be improved. At the Regional level there is a need for officers to understand the importance of teachers.

There have been many complaints of being forced to follow a process that often time does not work. During the consultations it was revealed that teachers could be sanctioned for deviating from the set standard.

“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. Caesar said during the consultations 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. This programme allows a teacher to remain in the classroom with rising emoluments, Caesar explained.

“We have to recognise that there are people who don’t want to manage schools; people who just want to teach, they enjoy teaching. Let us not leave them out in what we are doing,” Caesar cautioned.

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