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Jaevion Nelson | What sanctions for negligent teachers?

Published:Thursday | September 15, 2016 | 9:00 AMJaevion Nelson

It's really a tragedy that 40 students have to suffer because of the negligence of their teachers who, for whatever inexcusable reason, failed to submit sample School Based Assessments (SBA) to the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) as per guidelines. Consequently, these students have not received a grade for all of six subjects. They are now in limbo; they don't know if they can matriculate to sixth form or if they have to resit a particular subject. Thanks to the teachers who, despite being paid, neglected their duties.

This kind of dereliction of one's obligation is unacceptable. It is unimaginable to think that this has happened at a time when we are supposedly mainstreaming, among other things, accountability in our education system to improve students' performance. Is it my pessimism or does it seem as if we are moving at snail's pace to resolve the matter? You do realise that a month has passed since the grades were released by CXC, schools have resumed, and there has been no resolution.

I sincerely hope this will be concluded soon and that CXC will, for the sake of the students and their parents, accept the SBA scores and let them know their grades.

I haven't heard much about the educators who are responsible for this awful occurrence. It is my firm belief that sanctions should be handed down to these educators and relevant supervisors whose responsibility it is to ensure the necessary documentations and submissions are filed with or sent to CXC in a timely manner. At the very least, the educators should be sent home - perhaps on no-pay leave - until the matter is resolved. There has to be some kind of disciplinary action. We cannot continue to allow our educators to neglect their duties and to continue with impunity.

One wonders if this would ever happen at our more socially and economically affluent schools and what the Government and our response would be, if it ever happened. I suspect, as my friend said, "Rest assured, if it was any of our brand-name schools it wouldn't have gone down like this. Who business wid poor people pickney? Poverty is a sin." It begs the question of the value we place on our children based on, for example, their socio-economic status. If all of our children matter, then we must move with more alacrity on this.

 

CHALLENGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

 

The matter brings to fore (again!) the serious challenges of accountability in our educational institutions, which seems to plague low-resourced and underperforming schools like Penwood High especially, that had less than three per cent of its grade 11 cohort attaining at least five subjects with English and/or mathematics in 2013. What is the role of the Ministry of Education in all of this? Perhaps, if it is not yet a function of the ministry, we have to move towards schools being mandated to report on the status of meeting the guidelines of external examinations. We cannot continue to pay lip service to our children and youth being the future when we are not doing enough to ensure that they all have the opportunities needed to fulfil this mandate.

According to Maureen Dwyer, the chief inspector at the National Education Inspectorate, "accountability is arguably a 'buzz word' [which] varies in interpretation as well as implementation" in our educational system. She argues that "many of the schools both at primary and secondary levels, educators, parents, as well as boards of management appeared to be unclear as to what they were accountable for", which "suggests that there is considerable work to be done".

It bothers me that time and again, we are bombarded with countless reports which point to our educators, school administrators and boards of management not understanding and taking their roles seriously. While there are obvious challenges in many of our schools, there can be no room for negligence of any kind. These challenges can bear no blame for one's failure to submit sample SBAs. You have a duty to care, and play a crucial role in the development of our children and nation.

I expect that Minister Ruel Reid will be as forthright about this; educators cannot do as they please while our students suffer and they are feted with impunity. It's important that we get it, and do it right for all of our children. It's the only way to ensure our children are "empowered to achieve their fullest potential".

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.