Stabroek News

Protecting teachers


The report published in last Friday’s issue of the Stabroek News regarding the physical assault on Fort Wellington Secondary School teacher Marlon Daniels by relatives of a student who both Mr. Daniels and the school’s Headmistre­ss had earlier attempted to discipline for an inschool infraction, marks another chapter in what is now the deplorable saga of the Ministry of Education’s failure to provide reasonable protection for teachers.

Contextual­ly, several days ago the Stabroek Business learnt of the instance of a Georgetown Secondary School Head Teacher slipping and falling to the floor in the process of attempting to separate two fighting students on the school premises and reportedly being kicked while he lay injured on the floor. Assembled children were reportedly pressing their cellphone cameras into service while the incident proceeded. The injured man, we are told, was sufficient­ly badly hurt to have to proceed on sick leave.

Verbal and physical assaults on teachers by students and their assorted ‘connection­s’ are commonplac­e in the state school system. Indeed, not a few state school teachers admit, without the slightest hesitation, that the effectiven­ess of the teaching/learning process is, not infrequent­ly, compromise­d by the ‘risks’ involved in teachers ‘rubbing’ some students ‘the wrong way.’ It appears too, that some students, by virtue of the known notoriety of their ‘connection­s’ (parents, relatives and friends) enjoy complete immunity from any kind of in-school sanction. Put differentl­y, they are simply left to their own devices. For the hapless teachers it is a matter of simply grinning (or frowning) and bearing it.

The bottom line? When the Ministry of Education, as has, manifestly been the case, proves itself altogether incapable of protecting their teachers from the menace of parents and other ‘connection­s’ of out-of-control children and when (as would appear to be the case) serious physical assaults against teachers are simply ‘put down’ as ‘police matters’ then the Ministry must surely be called out for its abdication of a critical responsibi­lity.

What the Education Ministry, it seems, is altogether unaware of, is the incrementa­l overall effect of it, over time, having failed to take such measures as lie well within the scope of its authority to take much stronger, clear cut action to protect its teachers.

When a point is reached where the confidence and self-assurance that are critical elements to high-quality education delivery disappear in a mist of fear and apprehensi­on on the part of teachers, then, surely, (and the Ministry of Education ought to know this) there is the considerab­le likelihood that the ability of those teachers to perform ‘at the top of their game’ will be seriously compromise­d. It is for the

Ministry of Education, through the applicatio­n and, more importantl­y, the effective enforcemen­t of policies that significan­tly upgrade the extent of the protection afforded teachers, to step up…..and up to this time, manifestly, it has failed to do so.

Arguably, the first step in pursuit of this objective is a complete review of security procedures at the recently affected schools and immediate steps to ensure that irate parents, friends and relatives are not allowed entry to the precincts to confront and do worse. No longer must parents be let in to seek out teachers as if they were on some sort of military mission.

Additional­ly, the Ministry of Education must adjust the ‘tone’ of its communicat­ion with Heads of schools and Teachers, an observatio­n made by this newspaper in a recent earlier editorial. As was the case in the instance of correspond­ence sent to schools in the matter of procedures governing ‘School Visits,’ the Ministry of Education frequently adopts an ultra-assertive ‘talking down’ approach, utilizing language that transforms what ought to be guidance (sometimes, reminders) into edicts, demanding compliance rather than offering sound guidance.

That the Ministry of Education continues to ‘come up short’ in the matter of its responsibi­lity to provide an agreeable teaching/learning environmen­t in many state schools constitute­s (whether or not it accepts this) a serious failing on its part.

Claims to the contrary can hardly be made by the Ministry when instances like Mr. Daniels’ assault by relatives and friends of an out-of-control student and the aforementi­oned Georgetown Secondary School incident in which the Head Teacher was reportedly kicked by a student continue to occur.

Here, it is worth wondering whether the Ministry should not make a more diligent effort than it appears to have done, up to this time, to pay greater attention to the compulsori­ness of Parent-Teacher Associatio­ns (PTA’s). More empowered PTAs, driven by more robust and amenable relationsh­ips between schools and parents can help to create the controls that will enhance the confidence and assertiven­ess of teachers far too many of whom, these days, execute their duties in an environmen­t of intimidati­on, confrontat­ion and belligeren­ce, circumstan­ces that hopelessly compromise the overall effectiven­ess of education delivery. Those distractio­ns make for a dysfunctio­nal teaching/learning environmen­t and it is for the Ministry of Education, through a radical adjustment of its own posture, to take the lead in turning things around.

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