Analysis

Nemani Delaibatiki: Akbar Keeps Composure Despite Challenges With Teacher Unions

Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts maintains her passion. Stakeholders had welcomed her appointment because of her background as a teacher.
16 Nov 2019 15:07
Nemani Delaibatiki: Akbar Keeps Composure Despite Challenges With Teacher Unions
Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Rosy Akbar. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Analysis:

Rosy Akbar started with a hiss and a roar after she was appointed Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts 12 months ago.

Some of the early changes have resulted in significant positive outcomes.

For example, the change in the teaching timetable for teachers has led to improved examination results.

Year 6 and Year 8 external examination results have risen dramatically and they have been released earlier than before. Previously they were released towards the end of the year in December.

It is understood that the teaching of the curriculum was consolidated for the first two terms and the third term was solely for revision.

Education stakeholders welcomed her ministerial appointment because of her education background. She was a school teacher and before entering politics was vice-principal of Ba’s A.D. Patel College.

She opened up a dialogue with the teachers’ organisations and faith-based schools on sensitive and controversial issues.

But her first year in the role has not been without its own challenges.

One was the push by some religious organisations to appoint their members as school heads.

But the ministry defended its position that the best candidate should be chosen on merit irrespective of their religious affiliation.

She managed to amicably resolve the dispute.

The respective schools, funded by Government grants, were told that they would have to go totally private if they wanted to dictate the appointment of their school heads. It would mean they would not receive the Government grants.

With the teachers’ unions, she had to deal with grievances against reforms on contracts,  postings, demotions and promotions, salary scales and other conditions.

Talks got harder and harder and dialogue sort of dried up.  Communication between the unions and the ministry is mainly through email now.

While she is a lot quieter now since she started, she has not lost her composure. The unions want her to do what she did at the beginning, keep the dialogue going.

While she has been advised by ministry officials on what to say and what she can’t, she continues to speak out when she gets an opportunity.

Her passion for education was reflected in her address at a school’s annual awards. She said no child should be discriminated against enrolling at a secondary school or denied the right to education.

“Every child is special and deserves to be in a classroom,” even when that child is not good academically.

At another school prizegiving, she urged all Year 13 students to apply for the 950 available National Toppers Scheme places as she explained the Government policy.

She said students should also take advantage of the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme (TELS).

She said that “in the race of life there would be ups and downs.” But she added self-control would win them the race.

She knows because she has had her share of challenges and she has survived.

The challenges include the ones she is going through now with the unions.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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