No room for pit latrines

Clayton Hall.

KINGSTON — The umbrella Jamaica Teachers’ Association is demanding a pay increase for its members, and minimum standards in schools that would see the scrapping of pit latrines for disposing of bodily waste.

Clayton Hall, who is still wetting his feet as president of the powerful JTA, said pit latrines – famously abhorred by female students and teachers because they attract crawling insects – should be replaced by water closets or some other modern facility where piped water is unavailable.

“We want to see a situation where a student or teacher who enters any institution across the island would be guaranteed certain minimum standards that would set a foundation for education,” Hall said. “One of these is an eradication of pit latrines because we don’t think that in this day and age we should have pit latrines in schools.”

He was referring to the 199 schools that the Education Ministry said still had pit latrines last year August when it unveiled a plan to replace them over the next three academic years at a cost of over $1.2 billion.

The ministry said at the time that the 41 schools which were already connected to the National Water Commission’s system would be tackled first at a cost of $236 million, using funds from the ministry itself as well as the PetroCaribe Fund, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, CHASE Fund and other stakeholders.

The Jamaica Observer did not ascertain how many of the 41 schools had replaced their pit latrines.

Hall’s call in an interview yesterday with the Observer for salary increases for teachers, covering the contract period 2012 to 2014, is bound to face resistance from the Finance Ministry, in intense negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which could see big cuts in government expenditure.

In recent weeks, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips has urged public sector workers to limit their expectations for a wage increase in light of the ongoing negotiations for a pact with the Washington-based IMF.

The JTA president declined to say how much money the teachers would be seeking, but indicated that a raise was deemed necessary as he said the teachers had not received a significant pay hike since 2006.

“In the last three two-year cycles teachers have held strain. We are still receiving the rate from the 2006 to 2008 claim. You will recall that this was paid to us over a very long period, reducing the real income value of this money upon receipt,” he told the Observer.

Hall said also there were anomalies in salaries dating back to the 2006 contract that needed to be addressed, for example, some senior teachers and classroom teachers earning the same pay as vice-principals and principals.

“I think it would be a recommended move on behalf of government to seek to assist teachers in dealing with the significantly debilitating impact of inflation on their lifestyle,” he said. (Observer)

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