President of the Antigua & Barbuda Union of Teachers, Ashworth Azille said the construction of new buildings at several government secondary schools will not solve the problem of insufficient space for students and educators.
While speaking with OBSERVER media yesterday, Azille said new buildings on existing compounds will not solve overcrowded classrooms.
“Any additional space is welcomed. That in itself will not solve all of our problems, because for example, what you have at the Princess Margaret School is a newly built Home Economic Centre to bring it up to standard to provide more CVQs (Caribbean Vocational Qualification). We still have some way to go and there are some schools like Ottos Comprehensive that is also in some need of serious attention because we do not have the adequate amount of space to provide the full curriculum programe,” he said.
Azille said should the government go through with its plans to convert the Chinese-funded Five Island Secondary School compound to a university, then expansions of current school plants should continue, along with upgrades.
“As a trade unionist, our prime concern should always be the space in which teachers teach and students are learning. Even in the schools now there are very aging plants, and so while we are doing expansion in some areas, there needs to be continued work on existing structures, so we don’t have deterioration,” he added.
Meanwhile, Azille wants the Ministry of Education to empower teachers in the area of discipline. Teachers have raised concern about what they say is a rise in indiscipline among students.
“What we are seeing is indiscipline being demonstrated, such that we might not have seen such attitudes that students would not have contemplated before. At the end of the day, the Ministry of Education must empower principals and teachers. What we don’t want is that you ask a principal and his staff to do a job and then as Ministry of Education …is quite distanced from what is happening at the plant,” he added.
Azille is, however, cautioning teachers to ensure they adhere to the Education Act when disciplining students.