2nd December, 2015.
RE: MICRO MANAGING EDUCATION MINISTRY BY THE HON MINISTER, DR MAHENDRA REDDY
Ni sa bula Vinaka Turaga Na Prime Minister. I would like to raise my concern and inform you of what is happening at the Ministry of Education which may warrant your intervention.
Recent changes made in the Ministry of Education by the Hon Minister is like a whirlwind where with one swoop of his hand, he has introduced reforms that are demoralising the entire work force from the administrative level to the teachers on the ground. He has virtually disregarded the role of the operational head of the Ministry as stipulated in Section 127 – (2) of the 2013 Constitution, which says that “each Ministry is to be under the administration of the Permanent Secretary”.
In Parliament, on Tuesday, 25th August, Dr Reddy announced in his Ministerial statement that he has introduced a 3 tier reform which are ill conceived and not widely consulted even amongst his senior staff.
These reforms like the many that he has introduced without consultation at the Ministry level and disseminated to the teachers who will implement them will only bring about low morale and fear. These changes have demoralised the entire Ministry and by cracking his whip telling them that this is the way it’s going to be and how it’s going to be is showcasing his dictatorial attitude on all those under his leadership.
A case in point is the assessment issue in which he had announced early in the year that teachers are going to be assessed on a ratio of 60-20-20. This means that 60 should come from work carried out, 20 from the supervisors and 20 from the students for years 12 and 13.
Just recently, roving principals are going to schools and informing teachers that assessment procedures have changed. A sudden change such as this not only increases the anxiety on the teachers but it has placed an extra burden on the teachers and psychologically affects their output in as far as their results in examinations are concerned.
The Ministry has no structure in terms of reporting especially from education officers to senior education officers to Director Level. Now with the new reforms, everyone is reporting directly to the Minister and the Permanent Secretary is bypassed especially in the decision making process.
Section 127 –(8) The PS of each Ministry with the agreement of the Minister responsible for the ministry has the authority to determine all matters pertaining to the employment of all staff in the ministry, including –
- The terms and conditions of employment
- The qualification requirements for appointment and the process to be followed for appointment, which be an open, transparent and competitive selection process based on merit;
- The salaries, benefits and allowances payable , in accordance with its budget as approved by parliament; and
- The total establishment or the total number of staff that are required to be appointed, in accordance with the budget as approved by parliament.
The Senior Education Officer Chemistry came straight from USP to this position after graduation and who appoints the officer, none other than the Minister. There is a procedure in place and unfortunately is not being followed and anyone appointed is only through the Minister. Mrs Basundra Kumar during her tenure as acting PS, questioned the dictatorial attitude of Mr Reddy. She was not given a fair hearing and now she is history despite the fact that she had approached the Prime Minister about her case.
The current acting PS is dysfunctional due to the Minister taking over her role. She is just like a puppet and does not carry out her duties as spelt out in the constitution because her role has been taken over by the dictator.
There are 14 Directors in the Ministry. Were these positions budgeted? Will they contribute to the success rate of the Ministry? One can only wait and see the effectiveness of the changes made. The Director Technical College position was supposed to be awarded to Mr Eci Naisele and through the Hon Minister’s intervention, the post was given to another officer who was not qualified. Mr Naisele has the necessary experience and competency but he was overlooked because of the connection the promote had with the Minister.
It would be interesting to make a head count at the number of Fijians with Indian decent being promoted recently at the Ministry when he became Minister for Education. It is quite scary.
Teachers are [at] his mercy and he is ready to castigate and lay his blame on them. Now a case in point is the recent suicide of the three primary students. He has blamed his officer for carrying out his own instructions that schools must do well or the teachers will face the full consequences. It was through him and now he does not want it to be viewed that the directive originated from him. He is not fit to lead the Ministry of Education. He has brought fear amongst his teachers and officers. He has not even considered them for their hard work by way of a pay rise. It’s time to give credit where it is due. I have said this in Parliament regarding teachers’ pay and he does not even respond well to my questions.
The issue on pay rise has been raised many times and with Christmas just around the corner, it would be a positive move to give them what they deserve as these teachers are the implementers of the many reforms being introduced. I plead with your high office and as well as the Hon Minister to give these teachers and all civil servants a pay rise before the year ends. I am sure that there are savings which can be utilised to cater for this.
And as for those students who had taken their lives, they would not have done what they did, if they were not forced to pass and teachers are simply just carrying out what they have been directed to do, by telling their students to pass or else.
Now the Hon Minister is reneging on his directive that all students will have to be assessed and then not to move up to higher level if they don’t do well and now he is singing a different tune when those students took their lives. He cannot take the blame and the sad thing about this is the fact that this loss happened under his watch and in a primary school which is history in the making. He is clever to be seen consoling the grieving parents and as a matter of fact, he is to be blamed and he should be ashamed of himself. These parents should take him to court. This is usually the case where someone wants to take all the credit and unfortunately this time it’s backfiring on his face.
Let us hope that we do not see this happening after Year 12 and Year 13 exam results come out and unfortunately, we are still waiting for Year 8 results.
The Fiji Teacher Registration Board has its own manager just like the Post Processing Unit. The change in title as introduced by Reddy is made to please his own self and no one is benefitting, especially the community it has been tasked to serve.
What is a Manager in an education system? What is his/her role? Why the change in title? Is there a need?
Hon Prime Minister, I am concerned and so do others who have asked me to write to you. The Ministry needs your intervention and you can see for yourself on what is happening or do you? The Hon Minister for Health would have been the ideal choice and alas, here we have someone who hasn’t the faintest idea and also doesn’t care to heed advice, and running the Ministry like a dictator.
Please change the Minister as under his leadership, people have died and how many more are very scary to think of.
Merry Christmas Hon Prime Minister!
Hon Mikaele Leawere
Member of the Opposition