There were concerns raised about whether teachers would be fired as a result of the plan. The response from the pannel to this question showed just how uncertain the job security of several of the teachers really is. According to Sister Caritas Lawrence there remain some decisions to be made about which teachers will be used where.
“We don’t know the total fully because of two things: there are some schools that don’t have a person to teach something. So, a teacher from another school might have to be hired by another school. No teacher that is needed in the new plan will be worked off or set off. Maybe, the ministry will be able to call to deploy some of the teachers; we can give you an answer a little bit better”.
The present ratio of teachers to students is one for every eight, about half the national average. According to the panelists, the new plan seeks to have students matched up with the best educators – and in some cases, outlets – for their chosen subjects, as explained by Brenda Armstrong.
“In terms of the Third Form options, that was the critical thing for us to be able to deliver the three choices. The number of teachers to deliver that was ten at the three schools, and six here at ITVET. That, I can tell you because all the vocation-technical options in the choices that eh students were given, we did get consent to have the students come here to take that and that relieved the situation a lot. Both, Sadie Vernon and Maud Williams are already coming here to do vocational options. So, it was just adding Excelsior. So, that really was not a novel idea. What was a novel idea was to be able to combine the groupings. So, instead of having a teacher at each school doing the same subject with about ten or five students, they became one class. So, ten teachers were needed to do the Business and the Science options plus the Sixth Year. Food and Nutrition and Technical Drawing is staffed by the home schools. We don’t do Food and Nutrition here; Food preparation is done here at ITVET. So, we are adding that into the ten that I told you”.
According to Minister of Education Hon. Patrick Faber, those teachers who are made redundant because of the reorganization would be entitled under the law to either a temporary pension if it is felt they can be re-employed in the system, or a permanent pension if they do not have the qualifications but have put in the time.
Hon Patrick Faber- Minister of Education
“We have looked at the situation where, in fact, a few teachers and we’re trying to make sure that is minimized, may become redundant but we have looked as well as what conditions the regulations put in place for people who are made redundant in a situation like this and we can assure people that we will stick to that. From what I am told and what I am advised, of course by the Solicitor General in these instances that if a member of staff of any of these schools is made redundant that that teacher needs to be put on a pension immediately. So, there are two options when that kicks in. Firstly if that person is expected to continue in the teaching profession but is merely being displaced because of the kind of deployment that is happening at the school at the time, because of the redundancy, then that person will be placed on a temporary pension and of course as soon as that person can be re-employed in the education system that pension will cease. And there are other instances where we don’t expect people to be re-employed and they will start a pension at whatever age they are. We will ensure that these teachers are of course minimized, the ones that we would be making redundant. We are going to use strictly, and this is important, the fact that the restructuring, the deployment of resources is creating this redundancy. So that will be the basis upon which any teacher who departs are asked to depart based on redundancy.”
Faber did note, however, that there are several unqualified teachers within the ranks who had opportunities to improve their qualifications and failed to do so.
In fact, he even suggested that Belizeans “protest” the fact that these persons might qualify for pensions because in his view they should not be kept on.
However, he committed to following the law and warned that it was not necessary for the Teachers’ Union to pick fights over which teachers would be kept on, especially unqualified ones.