Our forgotten children

We wouldn’t have envisioned this in Jagan’s Freedom House, of asphyxiating Cuban cigars, punctuated with celebratory champagne and maddening music. For their seductive gyrations were unending, deep into the dark of night, as men in ill-fitting suits toast to what they foolishly believed, was their success. But most certainly their success it wasn’t, since it took the efforts of the prudent one, in Judicial gown, to intervene with his conciliatory proposition. However, even as this was being advanced, the men in ill-fitting suits and intoxicated eyes, weren’t in concurrence with what the Honourable one proposed. Since they argued, and foolishly so, they wish to continue vacuous talks with the Teachers’ Union.

But there was just one of many limitations, to this nonsensical nonsense; they weren’t on talking terms with the Union, counting years. Moreover, whenever they talked with the Union, they wouldn’t discuss dollars, hence was of no sense. As a result, and most predictably, the relationship between the Union and the installed government was shattered, like a chandelier under the force of gravity. And it was this recognition, of a shattered relationship, exacerbated by mistrust, that Justice Sandil Kissoon discerned, thus prescribed his magical medicament, mediation.

For mediation, as expounded by the gold-standard Oxford Dictionary, represents a process whereby, problems between two or more disagreeing people or parties, are resolved through talking. Where in the process of mediation, the mediators serve as the conduit between the conflicting parties, even as they identify differences and common ground. And it’s without doubt that the two conflicting parties, for want of a better characterisation, Union and installed government, had a significant difference in perspective, as it pertains to where the problems and solutions lie.

However, what is patently obvious, is that as a direct consequence of mediation, the parties were able to recognise common ground. Then it was this common ground, realised under the aegis of dialogue, that brought the Union and installed government, to the evvel neglected negotiation table. Now having brought the teachers, through a path of much juvenile resistance, to a position of communicating with the installed government, one shouldn’t consider, a celebratory champagne cacophony. Since the reality is, they are light years away from resolving this chronic contentious issue, of remuneration and working conditions. But even with the resolution of remuneration issues et al, there is still the reality, our children are enduring 2yrs of learning loss, as a result of PPP poor Covid management. And even as our teachers grapple with this learning deficit, our children’s 2yrs learning loss is being compounded by additional months, down to PPP refusal to engage the GTU.

Thus, for this reason, PPP should be held responsible for the initiation and escalation of this strike, having taken the irrational position of not talking with the Union. And having refused to engage the Union, PPP adapted a hard-line approach, when the Union extended multiple olive branches, as an avenue to resolving the impasse. As a result, our children already facing a 2yrs learning loss, are delivering shocking NGSA and CSEC results, with less than 40% gaining passes in Maths and English.

But when these results are examined in the context of other tragic results, and a 50% school dropout rate, the rational thought was, PPP would’ve recognised the urgency of ending the strike, getting our children and teachers back where they belong: in the classroom. However, PPP deva less, even as they disregarded the academic, social and psychological implications of such protracted school closures, during the pandemic and now this strike.

Mark’s Take

The fact is, under the APNU+AFC Government, the teachers also took industrial action, for better remuneration and working conditions. But APNU+AFC, recognising the importance of our children’s uninterrupted education, worked in good faith with the Union, to have the strike amicably resolved in days. In contrast, PPP stood inconsiderate of our children, as it took Justice Sandil Kissoon, who unlike this installed government, positioned our children first, in proposing mediation.

Nevertheless, even as mediation was rightly proposed by Justice Kissoon, with the obvious relationship breakdown between PPP and GTU, PPP was resistant to the intervention. However, during these five weeks of our teachers’ strike, it’s our children, especially those in the lower socioeconomic groups, who aren’t private school educated, paying the price. Thus, when this is examined in the context of the 2yrs Covid learning losses, it’s criminal of PPP, to have had this impasse extending for over a month. And now that the industrial action has come to an apparent pause, the question is, what remedies PPP has for our children’s insurmountable learning losses?