Government teachers’ threat to go on strike in response to the Ministry of Education’s staffing and transfer exercise has come as no surprise at all. Teachers have, in the past, tended not to question the staffing exercise in general but the effect of the strike last year seems to have created an atmospere of suspicion regarding the motives of the education department.
In my humble opinion, the Ministry of Education could have itself avoided such a situation. With the recent moves towards public reform, one would have thought that a more transparent system would be in place by now to justify and provide clarity on transfers and promotions. When a transparent system is in place, teachers can at least have this as a reference point to see whether they have been fairly treated in comparison to their peers, or otherwise. It would be more satisfying then for them, I believe, to actually work out from such a system whether they have met (or failed) the criteria required for promotion. But in the absence of such, it is small wonder that they are questioning the rationale behind the recent transfers and promotions. In a small country like Tonga, it is quite easy to start speculating when no clear formula for such an exercise is at hand and made available for the scrutiny of those affected.
I therefore urge the Ministry of Education, that for the sake of continuity in Tonga’s children’s education, that they start working towards a more transparent system for transfers and promotions that is not only acceptable to, and workable for, them as a department, but also to/for teachers and non-teaching staff in the long-term. It is also a way of protecting themselves (MoE) from such future claims from teachers, who, after all, are looking for clarity in what is obviously their career and livelihood!
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