Teachers say they will no longer ‘work for free’

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Outgoing acting president of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers, J. Tasheba Frederick (Photo by Kadeem Joseph)
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Teachers have told education officials that “they are on the clock” and will “no longer be working for free” as it relates to the marking of School-Based Assessments (SBAs) for the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

Outgoing Acting President of the Teacher’s Union J Tasheba Frederick said educators are tired of being exploited by CXC.

She said the time has come for teachers in Antigua and Barbuda to be compensated for their work, as in other regional territories like Jamaica.

“CXC pays markers to mark third papers but not teachers who do a lot more than is required with a third paper, and we are serving notice to the ministry that they are on the clock.

“We will no longer work for free. Renumerate teachers adequately for the hard work with the SBA as other territories have done,” Frederick said.

Frederick was addressing scores of educators attending the union’s Annual General Conference at the John E St Luce Finance and Conference Centre when she made the demand.

She had previously blasted ministry officials for an apparent lack of support, pointing to the disrespect educators felt when 109 substitute teachers were hired to replace those who opted not to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

She said such sentiments were especially palpable at the start of pandemic when educators’ dedication was “not adequately recognised”.

Frederick claimed that teachers are among the most qualified persons in the country yet are not making a liveable salary.

“Is it fair that so many teachers have had to take a second job to support themselves and their families? Is it right that so many teachers are told that their salary is not enough to get a mortgage?

“The teaching profession is predominantly made up of women but we also have good men in the profession. We are tired of feeling as if we are inadequate or dependent when we are gainfully employed.

“How can it be right that we have had to wait for more than 10 years for a negotiated salary increase?” Frederick asked.

“We would like the government to know it takes seven years minimum for a child to finish primary school, five years minimum for secondary school, two years minimum to finish State College. Ten years is a long time to wait,” she stated.

Frederick told government officials that teachers cannot continue to make “bread out of stone as their pockets are empty and they have too much pride and integrity to turn to a life of crime”.

“As elected officials who benefit from a high salary, free transportation, utility subsidies and travelling per diem, we understand that you can no longer relate to our struggles of living from pay cheque to pay cheque,” she charged.

“However, with our salaries we have no choice. Employees are motivated when appreciation is communicated through recognition of their work and is recognised by their employer,” she added.

Frederick also bemoaned a lack of resources for teachers, the level of drug use amongst students, and violence among students amid increasing incidents of juvenile violence in and outside the nation’s schools.

A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said the body had no comment to make until the issue has been fully ventilated. 

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