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Education Act being reformed to address issues like special leave

Education Minister Fayval Williams and Linvern Wright, President of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools
 
Education Minister Fayval Williams has disclosed that there are reforms being made to the Education Act to deal with situations such as the controversy surrounding the special leave arrangements for former Education Minister Ruel Reid, who resigned as principal of Jamaica College on Saturday.
 
She said the changes are being made to ensure that the provisions regarding special leave reflect what takes place in the public service.
 
There have been calls for a definitive position to be taken by the government on special leave, particularly in relation to the length of time and the entitlements.
 
Mrs Williams said the concerns were taken into account during a review of the legislation. 
 
"I know in other areas in the public sector, in a similar situation, the person would lose a percentage of their salary while they are waiting for the court case to be determined - that does not exist in the education sector. So these are some of the things that when we look at the reform of the Education Act, that we need to ensure it's in there and it would be in keeping with what exists in the rest of the public sector," she said on Tuesday as a guest on Radio Jamaica's Beyond The Headlines.
 
Mr. Reid, who is one of five people facing corruption charges for allegedly defrauding the Ministry of Education and Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) of millions of dollars, had been granted special leave for two years. He had sought an extension of his special leave for five more years, but eventually reached a settlement with the Jamaica College Trust and the Ministry of Education, leading to his resignation as principal of the school.    
 
It has been argued that Mr. Reid's special leave was not permissible under the Education Act.
 
But Mrs Williams argued otherwise, saying she had "many conversations and that was not the advice that I got". 
 
"But again, if that is so, then it stands to reason that it should not be prolonged then," she admitted. 
 
Close loopholes 
             
Linvern Wright, President of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, said it is unfair to criticise school and teachers for opposing amendments to regulations accompanying the Education Act.
 
It had been suggested by former Ministers of Education that they had difficulty in getting buy-in from educators when they sought to revise the Act.
 
But according to Mr. Wright, if changes to regulations are in the best interest of the country, governments should have closed the loopholes after consultations. 
 
"What governments do is because they have foresight. They make these decisions. It might cost them both in the long run, but so be it. What we want to ensure is that we have a properly run country. I have to do that as a principal sometimes in a school. My staff may disagree. I put it out there, I say this is the case, and make my case to them. If it is that your case is fair and just and somebody wants to disagree in their own personal interest, I think as a government that is responsible, you go ahead and do your thing," he explained. 
 
However, Mr. Wright suggested that even if the Education Act is reformed, there could still be loopholes if specified procedures to resolve issues are not followed. 
 
"What I think people are really frustrated about is that you have a teacher...or any member who, for example, maybe doesn't write lesson plans. But if you do not record that you have warned the person how many times and you don't log it, sometimes there's an issue with that. And the fact of the person’s delinquency is not absent, but because it did not go through the procedures. And in law, that's what the situation is. And I'm saying that if we change it, what I think we have to do...[is] to ensure that we work with ensuring that the procedures are followed," reasoned Mr. Wright, who was speaking on Wednesday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106.
 
 


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