By Neto Baptiste
Director of Education Clare Browne has categorically stated that he will not recommend any teacher be granted leave during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, unless measures have been put in place to ease the burden placed on the system due to their prolonged absence.
His announcement comes on the heels of news that the Public Service Commission (PSC) denied requests from two national cricketers and Physical Education teachers, Nino Henry and Tyrone Williams Jr, who had applied for “special leave” in hopes of taking up contractual offers with the Leeward Islands Cricket Board (LICB).
“The Ministry of Education and certainly this Director of Education, would have to do the responsible thing and recommend that a leave like that cannot be considered. My position is simple, until I have more teachers available to me in an already short education system, I will never recommend to anybody, anything else but I keep the teachers I have. Children deserve to have their teachers because you and I, we had our teachers, we got our education and children deserve, even in a pandemic, to have an education,” he said.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Browne said that in the case of the two cricketers, the ministry was not given enough time to plan for their absence as their requests were received several days after the start of the period for which the leave was required.
“The Establishment department says that any teacher that is requesting duty leave or study leave must put in their request prior to the 28th day of February if you want to go in September of the same year because whatever request must be processed and by the 28th day of February the ministries, whether it is education or otherwise, must submit these requests for duty leave or study leave to the Establishment department,” he said.
“The Ministry of Education would require from teachers, submissions for request for duty leave, study leave prior to the 28th day of February because we have to send them down by the 28th day of February or else they are going to be rejected.”
News broke on Tuesday that Henry, of New Winthorpes Lions, and Williams Jr who plays for Empire Nation, both received letters dated October 16 denying their requests for leave, citing a shortage of teachers during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The education director suggested that persons wishing to take up offers, whether they be for study or duty, may have to do so without pay.
“If you ask for leave without pay, then you allow the Ministry of Education, even in a temporary way, to engage teachers and you have to remember that it is about salaries. So if the government is already cash-strapped and you’re gone with the teaching position and the salary, then that money cannot be put to engage anybody else,” Browne said.
“People have gone on leave without pay and we have employed people temporarily to hold the position because let’s face it, teaching is not like any other thing; teachers are assigned to classes and a class cannot go without a teacher,” he added.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association (ABCA), Leon Rodney, said he will be engaging officials within the education ministry in hopes of having the decision reversed.
News emerged in June this year that Henry and Williams Jr had been drafted by the sub-regional cricket board for the 2020 CWI professional season.