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EBOLA IN EDUCATION By Rae Samuel

posted 2 Oct 2014, 10:09 by Gerry Kangalee
Recently on my way to NALIS I encountered a group of school children from South East Port of Spain Secondary in the foyer. They had half day off because of a staff meeting. Hooray for the teachers and the Principal because I hope and pray that some firm decisions were taken to deal with the Ebola-like crisis that has affected and afflicted our school system in working class, 'non-prestigious' areas. 

If we map this the way we track and follow pandemics, we would see the crisis spreads from Carenage to Couva to Sangre Grande to Pleasantville. Like the failing health systems in Africa, the educational authorities have failed to treat with indications and signs and at best now can only hope for local containment and quick fixes.

A government that can build an overpass in quick time, re-pave a highway for the millionth time, import foreign medical help but not provide practical training for local dental technicians, spend millions on anniversary rituals that are meaningless to most of the population, cannot repair an air condition unit or fix a roof? To me that is not a poor tendering process but well thought out policy.

I recall years ago when the decision was taken to expand the “plants” in Couva and in Curepe by building on the playing fields, we asked what about ''all round development''. The answer was that the parking lots would be turned into playing fields. This was under PNM. Now in Couva there are neither playing fields nor classrooms. For the record Inshan Ali, Dinanath Ramnarine, Ravi Rampaul and Adrian Barath all come out of the Central area: be it schools in Chaguanas or Couva. We dare anyone to pave the playing fields on Serpentine Road or Mucurapo Road.

There seems to be strong evidence based on the pattern that pre-dates this administration that a policy decision has been taken to avoid giving proper education to working class children. Somebody has to work in CEPEP, somebody has to fill Amalgamated prison vans, somebody has to go school to graduate in intercol right football right? Some parents by the 'grace of god ' and through unimaginable and indescribable sacrifice manage to pay for school lessons and co-curricular activities.

Those are few and their numbers are shrinking thanks to 'contract labour' and CEPEP which are poor paying options of employment. The vast majority have to populate the 'non-prestigious' schools where, alas, too many teachers see the students as the enemy who have to be corralled and contained.

Far too many teachers are calling for negotiations to resume while not addressing the conditions of study and work they themselves are confined in. This is why they are caught up in and distracted by debates about 'corporal punishment'. The most consistent programme in history was chattel slavery and it failed to stop rebellions. Why will it work now?

The first respondents in a crisis are the people on the ground. I am suggesting that the teachers' representative organisations, along with their allies in parent teacher associations, declare a 'terrorist threat'' in education led by the State and take necessary steps to halt the spread of "Ebola' in education.
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