There is no gaping hole in the education system

Education Minister Curtis King has said ‘no’ to claims there is a gaping hole in the education system due to the number of teachers who are now out of the school system after failing to comply with COVID-19 measures.

King refuted that claim when he appeared as a guest Sunday, August 28, on Issue at Hand on WE FM.

Andrew John, head of industrial relations and research for the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU), called out the program and berated the minister for denying there was a gaping hole in the educational system.

“I deal with these teachers and I am aware of the qualifications and the role they play,” John said, questioning Minister King’s denial.

“Tell me how you can say that,” John again challenged the minister.

In response, King said, “We’ve always had…teachers missing here and there, but when you say, or the president or whoever says there’s a gaping hole in the teaching or education system, I say no.

He went on to admit, “yes, we have challenges, but when you talk about a gaping hole, you are talking about a significant problem.”

The education minister further argued that describing the situation as a gaping hole suggests that “there is a damning problem in the education system due to the absence of these teachers.”

While admitting that the situation is difficult, King said, “due to the fact that we went there, and [sought] to make sure there are substitutes when those teachers weren’t there, we can’t describe that as a gaping hole.

He also expressed his wish to see all teachers returned to their regular posts and maintained that “a gaping hole would have existed… if we had not made an effort to fill the vacant posts”.

SVGTU president Oswald Robinson has also called on the program to support its executive member, Andrew John.

Robinson called for the repeal of the SR&O which came into effect last November making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for people considered frontline workers, including teachers.

“You made the law and you have to go back and repeal it,” Robinson explained.

In his contribution to the program on Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said more than 90% of teachers had taken a COVID vaccine.

He explained that the 212 teachers who were not vaccinated were not all permanent teachers; some were substitute teachers while others were on contract.

Throughout the speech, King maintained his position that talking about a gaping hole suggests that “students are in school without teachers to teach them,” and that is not the case.