As anticipated, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) is opposed to the National Primary Schools Principals Association’s (NPSPA) proposal to reduce the one-hour lunch break in primary schools by 30 minutes.
The NPSPA made the proposal on Wednesday during a meeting with Education Minister Anthony Garcia and senior ministry officials. All of a sudden this suggestion popped up at the Ministry of Education and a press conference was called. Who is behind this? Is the Minister behind this proposal? Answers are needed.
NPSPA president Coglan Griffith said the aim of the proposal is to help reduce indiscipline and injuries at school. It also means a shortened school day which will enable teachers to get home earlier, students to take part in extra curricular activities and the corporate and local communities to get involved in school affairs.
Doodhai said the proposal is ill-conceived and a knee-jerk reaction to recent incidents in which some students suffered injuries while at school. The proposal, if implemented, will do more harm than good to students, he said, as they need a full hour’s break as an outlet for their energy and to learn to socialise.
He said TTUTA understands that supervision of children during the lunch break is an issue as the responsibility for monitoring students is placed on principals. “It is impossible for principals to monitor 300 or 400 children at one time,” he said. Decisions on what measures should be put in place for the supervision of children during the lunch break, he added, should be taken by all stakeholders involved, he said, noting that in some countries education ministries and education boards hire school/playground monitors to supervise students during the lunch break.
Teachers have a right to an hour’s lunch break, he said, as other workers in the public and in some private sector entities. “It is a right that was fought for in the past and that right which teachers enjoy now,” he said, “TTUTA, as the recognised union, will not do anything that will infringe the rights of teachers.” Despite their entitlement, he said, they do not take all of it.
Much of their time, Doodhai said, is spent in classrooms attending to students, correcting tests and preparing for the afternoon session. Some teachers also use the break as down time to refocus and re-energise so they can be more productive in the afternoon.