Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 21st 2017 Contents A4 news
guardian.co.tt Friday, April 21, 2017
Garcia to seek consultations on proposal
Education Minister Anthony
Garcia has confirmed that con-
sultations are to be held with the
T&T Unified Teachers Associa-
tion (TTUTA) and other stake-
holders, including parents, on
a proposal to reduce the lunch
hour and recess at schools in the
hope of reducing violent activity
at the nation's schools.
He made the comment following
yesterday's post-Cabinet news con-
ference at the Diplomatic Centre, St
The proposal was made during a
meeting with officials of the Nation-
al Primary Schools Principal' Asso-
ciation at the Ministry of Education
Yesterday, Garcia said the proposal
cannot be implemented unilaterally.
He noted that the teachers' lunch
hour was important and discussions
will be held on that and related mat-
ters with TTUTA shortly.
"We have to engage in some in
depth discussions on all these is-
sues that have now been presenting
themselves and as soon as we have
completed our discussions then we'd
be better able to make a pronounce-
ment on it," he added.
Garcia said the principals' body
was told the ministry required time
to consider the proposed measures.
However, he said he was happy
that the principals were "thinking
forward and are attempting to find
solutions to some of the problems we
are having n the education system
and not just criticising."
The Minister added: "The discus-
sions will take place before we get
back to the principals."
Garcia said on Monday the matter
will be "at the top of the agenda"
at a special meeting with the Chief
Education Officer and other officials
in the ministry. He said following
that meeting "we are going to roll
out how we are going to deal with
the other areas of consultation, in
particular TTUTA and the National
Parent Teacher Association."
Non-educational successor for UWI
In a significant break from
tradition, the University of
the West Indies is expected
to appoint T&T businessman
Robert Bermudez as its next
Current UWI Chancellor Sir
George Alleyne is scheduled to
demit office at the end of July.
Bermudez is expected to become
only the second T&T national to
hold that office, the first being late
prime minister Dr Eric Williams.
In making the announcement
during yesterday's post-Cabinet
news conference at the Diplomatic
Centre, St Ann's, Education Min-
ister Anthony Garcia said Bermu-
dez was unanimously selected over
The university's Search Commit-
tee is made up of representatives
from contributing governments,
executives from the Senate of the
UWI, Students Guild, Post-Grad-
uate Students' Association and the
West Indies Group of University
Garcia said the decision was
taken after several meetings of
the search committee. He said the
Heads of Government, at a meeting
in February, endorsed Bermudez'
He said the recommendation will
be presented at the next meeting of
the Council of the University of the
West Indies in Barbados next week.
The minister said Bermudez'
wide business experience had
played a key role in his selection.
"It was felt that the UWI should
depend less on the coffers of the
respective governments and should
try as far as possible to generate its
own funds," Garcia said.
"We need to have this paradigm
shift where we are looking at ways
and means whereby the universi-
ty can generate its own funds. We
felt that we needed somebody with
Garcia noted, for example, that
the T&T government contributed
$650 million to the UWI annually.
He said when he meets with UWI
officials for scheduled meetings
he often raised the issue about
the university becoming more self
He also defended the search
committee over concerns raised
about the change from an educa-
tion-based chancellor to that of a
businessman, adding that Bermu-
dez' vision for the university was
Garcia noted that Bermudez is
chairman of Bermudez Group Ltd,
Bermudez Biscuit Company Ltd,
Kiss Baking Company Ltd, Holiday
Snacks Ltd, Jamaica Biscuit Com-
pany Ltd and Massy Holdings Ltd.
Stakeholders on reduced
school lunch hour
'Knee jerk reaction'
The proposal to reduce the
lunch hour for primary school
students from one hour to 30
minutes is being widely crit-
icised by denominational
school boards and other stake-
holders, who say it is a "knee
jerk" reaction to the violence
and indiscipline taking place
Saying the move would also
infringe on the rights of both
teachers and students, Trinidad
and Tobago Unified Teachers'
Association (TTUTA) president
Lynsley Doodhai yesterday said,
"TTUTA is totally opposed to
the proposal put forward by the
National Association of Primary
School Principals and we believe
it is ill-conceived and a knee jerk
reaction to the incidents of a dis-
ciplinary nature that has occurred
at schools within the recent past."
He added, "The lunch hour of
the teacher is a term and condi-
tion of employment that they enjoy
which came about not by chance,
but by negotiation."
Arguing that TTUTA was the
only entity which had the power
to negotiate on behalf of teachers
with the employer, Doodhai said
no discussions were ever held with
them on such a move.
He also confidently offered, "I
am very sure when that matter
comes to our general council it
will not find favour, because it is
attempting to infringe on the rights
of the teachers with respect to one
Pointing out that teachers most
times do not utilise the entire
lunch hour and instead complete
class-related activities, Doodhai
said teaching was already a very
stressful profession and the hour
allowed them some downtime to
regroup, focus and re-energise for
the afternoon session.
He noted too that school was
a primary agent for socialisation
and reducing the lunch hour would
"seriously curtail the time they
spent interacting with their peers."
Parents would also be affected by
the change in hours of the school
day as they would have to adjust
the times for collecting children.
Offering a suggestion of his own,
Doodhai said in some countries the
presence of school monitors had
been introduced as one way to al-
low teachers to enjoy their breaks
before heading back to classes.
Referring to the proposal as
"half-baked," Doodhai reiterat-
ed, "Whether it is 60 minutes or
30 minutes, children can still find
the time to engage in dangerous
activities during which they can
be injured. As the union repre-
sentative for teachers, we are not
in agreement with it."
He said he had also been con-
tacted by principals who were not
in agreement with the idea.
Businessman Robert Bermudez
Education Minister Anthony Garcia during yesterday's post-Cabinet press
briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. PHOTO: ANISTO ALVES
NPTA: WE WILL NEVER AGREE
National Parent Teacher Associa-
tion (NPTA) president Zena Rama-
tali shared a similar view to Doodhai.
"We will not agree now nor will
we agree in the future," she said in
response to the proposal.
She said children must be allowed
to interact with each other and if
steps are taken to reduce that time
of relaxation, it would affect the
social fabric among them and their
Ramatali said like teachers, stu-
dents were also under tremendous
mental stress and needed the time
to interface and share lighter mo-
ments outside the classroom.
Sending a strong message to
parents to get more involved, Ra-
matali urged the ministry to look at
employing safety officers and even
encourage parents to volunteer
during such periods instead.
She said, "Both the teachers and
children will benefit, but if you take
away their time, they are the ones
who will suffer the most."
Echoing points raised by Doodhai
and Ramatali, secretary general of
the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
(SDMS), Sat Maharaj, asked, "Has
this properly been thought out? If
you cut the lunch hour by half, this
would change the length of the
school day. Have the ramifications
Referring to working parents
who would be unable to collect their
children before a certain time, Ma-
haraj said, "This is a just a knee-jerk
Saying the authorities were fail-
ing to address the falling academic
standards at many schools and were
instead focusing on peripheral issues
as a way to deal with violence and
indiscipline, Maharaj said, "Who told
them that violence only occurs at
lunch time? Where is the analysis?
Some of us believe it is happening
after school, outside school, but
where is the data?"
Head of the Presbyterian School
Board, Lennox Sirjuesingh, added,
"School days must be happy days
and one of the best times is the
lunch break to play and interface
with each other."
He said reducing the lunch break
could bring unforeseen complica-
tions with effects on the mental and
social psyche of students.
"We are not in agreement with
this suggestion," he said.
Links Archive April 20th 2017 April 22nd 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page