Trinidad – 600 teachers under probe
Complaints: Absenteeism, Sick leave, abuse, Sexual misconduct, Punctuality and Misbehaviour
PORT OF SPAIN –– More than 600 teachers are currently being investigated by the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) on various complaints ranging from sexual misconduct to abuse of sick leave.
Among them is Lennon Rampersad, a physics teacher at Presentation College, Chaguanas, who has been accused of habitual absenteeism and failing to perform his duties.
Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh confirmed yesterday he had received a letter of complaint against Rampersad and the matter was before the TSC.
However, Rampersad told the Express he was unaware of any investigation, adding that he had been performing his duties.
The letter, dated December 27, 2014, was sent to Gopeesingh by the Parents And Teachers Association Board (PTAB) and the Alumni Of Presentation College, Chaguanas, who complained Rampersad had not been on the job and had made defamatory attacks against the principal, among other issues.
“The obvious result of this teacher’s failure to perform his duties, is that our children have not been able to complete parts of the syllabus as assigned. This has placed them in a seriously disadvantageous position, and remedial work will have to be done if they are to be on par with their colleagues,” stated the letter.
Rampersad was given every opportunity to correct the performance issues and failed to do so, it added.
“The matter is now intolerable for all affected children and parents. As the PTAB, we are also concerned with this teacher’s irresponsible behaviour, [which] if allowed to continue unaddressed, may negatively impact the morale of other teachers who give their best every day,” stated the letter.
“Honourable Minister, we know you share our concern that while this situation continues unresolved, our children’s education and the school’s stellar reputation are being adversely impacted.
“This is untenable for all of us who are stakeholders in our children’s education. In the circumstance, sir, we kindly seek your urgent intervention in expediting matters pertaining to this teacher, including the provision of a fit and proper replacement,” the letter continued.
Concerns have also been expressed that Rampersad is collecting a $10,000 a month salary from the ministry while managing a multimillion-dollar company –– Tropicote Enterprises Ltd –– where he is listed as a proprietor, according to the Companies Registry.
Gopeesingh said he was aware of the complaints made against Rampersad, adding that the principal of Presentation College, Gary Ribeiro, did not deal with the matter initially in keeping with the required process and was advised by the ministry’s permanent secretary on the process.
He said since then the process was followed that would be able to hold scrutiny before the TSC.
Gopeesingh said the complaint was referred to the commission for its consideration but he had not heard anything about it.
The minister said there had always been an inordinate delay in dealing with matters before the commission. He said under the last commission, which changed last year, there were over 6,000 matter that required disciplinary action and only one was dealt with.
He said there are about 40 matters before a tribunal for more than three years.
“In effect the whole process leaves a lot to be desired,” Gopeesingh added.
He said the new TSC chaired by Dr Fazal Ali had been working feverishly to address issues.
Gopeesingh said the commission was charged with handling complaints made against teachers, as well as dealing with filling of vacancies, promotions and other issues, and was required to do all of this on a part-time basis.
He said there were weaknesses that must be addressed.
Gopeesingh said reports of teacher absenteeism, punctuality, abuse of sick days, as well as allegations of sexual misconduct and misbehaviour, formed part of the 600 plus complaints before the commission.
He said it was under the remit of the commission to determine whether a teacher was suspended with or without pay when an allegation or complaint was brought, but there were constraints, given industrial relations laws and matters before the courts.
Gopeesingh said the entire situation called for “deep introspection”, and service commissions on a whole needed to be looked at holistically with constitutional changes in mind.
He said these commissions should be working full-time and have the workers giving daily full-time support.
The minister said while there were teachers against whom complaints had been made, the majority of the 16,000 teachers provided good service.
“I congratulate and thank the thousands of teachers who are going above the call to provide extraordinary teaching to our students,” said Gopeesingh.
He also extended gratitude to the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) for co-operating and working with the ministry in addressing issues.
Principal Ribeiro also confirmed to the Express that the matter was before the ministry. However, he said he was unable to comment due to ministry policy.