Fiji Time: 8:19 PM on Tuesday 30 June

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Weeding out the rot

Fred Wesley
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

THE revelation by the Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy that at least 20 per cent of teachers are not performing may not attract as much attention as the confirmation that some were having affairs with students.

It's shocking when one puts things into perspective.

How do we even begin to contemplate the usefulness of the teaching system when this is cast into the mix?

Could this be a reflection of a fragmented society? Could it be a reflection of the system?

Could it be a sign of the times?

Unfortunately though, we are not alone. Affairs with students, according to a recent report in The Washington Post for instance suggested such incidents were becoming common across the US.

In 2014 alone, it pointed out, there were 781 reported cases of teachers and other school employees accused or convicted of sexual relationships with students.

It said, on average, there were reports of at least 15 young people who were sexually victimised by educators entrusted to protect them.

In our context, the fact that the minister has highlighted this issue certainly makes it an important one to discuss. Understandably the fact that 20 per cent of teachers are not performing is serious enough.

The fact that some are actually engaged in affairs with students does take things on to a very different level.

Dr Reddy has warned that teachers will be demoted to clerks within the ministry if they become a liability to the school system.

There are more than 8000 teachers around the country.

Dr Reddy said the underperforming teachers had Monday sick leaves, affairs with students, not covering classes and were behind schedule.

He highlighted a number of issues that add up to make this an issue deserving our time and urgent attention.

He said instead of teaching the children, some school teachers were running side businesses under someone else's name. It's good that plans are in place to move offending teachers out of the system. The question though is what do we do to ensure the rot is effectively dealt with?

Clearly there are many teachers who will continue to churn out an honest day's work.

They will continue to leave lasting impressions on the minds of their young charges.

They will aid in the nurturing of young minds, and turning these students into important members of our nation in the future.

These teachers deserve our gratitude.

But it is the 20 per cent that is creating a bad image for the profession.

These are the teachers who must be dealt with.

Surely, every one of those wonderful 80 per cent of teachers will join us and parents around the country in saying enough is enough!

The onus is on the ministry and the minister to put an end to this now. Dr Reddy must be acknowledged though for highlighting the issue.

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