PHILIPSBURG–Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) President Claire Elshot is calling on Education Minister Wycliffe Smith to divulge his plans to address the issues at St. Maarten Vocational Training School (SMVTS) which she said needs to be recognised.
Elshot said at a press conference on Thursday that government has to indicate what specific type of school SMVTS is, as this is currently not clear. Once this is clear, the necessary training should be provided to the school’s teachers so that they can be well-equipped to carry out their functions according to the school’s classification. They will also need the tools to function effectively.
School recognition will also make it clear what students who complete their education at SMVTS can do to further their skills so that they can eventually play a better role in the job market.
“What type of school SMVTS is and what the value of the certificate granted to students is, needs to be clearly defined. An educational development plan is needed for the school,” Elshot said.
She said for schools such as St. Dominic High, the type of school it is – a Caribbean Examinations Council CXC and International Baccalaureate (IB) school – is clearly defined. Similar definition is needed for SMVTS.
“It is a special education school. Is it a dumping ground for special needs kids? A law is needed to classify the school,” she said. “If the type of school it is is not clearly defined, then you can have a situation where there are teachers who are in the wrong salary scale and this can affect their pension.”
Elshot said school recognition is one of several concerns of SMVTS teachers. Another concern is that teachers are being told that they have to be on the school premises from 7:30am to 2:45pm. Elshot said that by law teachers are supposed to provide 39.5 hours per week, which has to be split into 27 contact (teaching) hours and 12.5 task hours. She said there is no regulation which states that teachers have to sit in school from 7:30am to 2:45:pm.
“There are some things at the St. Maarten Vocational Training School that need to be addressed urgently and immediately on the short term, medium term and long term that have to do with educational, human resource and operational issues,” Elshot said. “The minister should say what are his plans to address the issues at the school.”