Solomons Education Ministry calls an early end to school holidays | Pacific Beat

Solomons Education Ministry calls an early end to school holidays

Solomons Education Ministry calls an early end to school holidays

Updated 1 April 2013, 11:32 AEDT

The Solomon Islands Ministry of Education has ordered that schools around the country recommence classes next week, and has threatened disciplinary action against teachers who fail to turn up for classes.

The order comes after a week long teachers strike, which has forced the closure of schools since last Thursday, with ongoing negotiations failing to resolve the issue.

Now the Ministry of Education has cancelled the gazetted holiday next week, with schools to reopen on Tuesday, saying it's more important that students get a full year of school, and pointing out they have already had a week off.

And it has warned that if teachers fail to show up they will face disciplinary action, possibly including dismissal.

But the Solomon Islands Teachers Union says they are not scared, and has vowed the strike will go on.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney

Speaker:Fred Rohorua, the Permanent Secretary of the Solomon Islands' Ministry of Education and Human Resources development, Sampson Faisi, President Solomon Islands Teachers Union


ROHORUA: I have just given instructions for my staff to prepare (a) Service Message to be passed to all schools and education authorities around the country. We'll start school next.
COONEY: So there will be no week break?
ROHORUA: There's no week break, we're going back to school next week and we'll follow the normal term.
COONEY: Is this with the agreement of the teachers?
ROHORUA: No this is instructions from the Ministry of Education to education authorities.
COONEY: If the teachers decide that they're still going to stay out because they're not happy with the state of negotiations, what happens then?
ROHORUA: Well we've instructed the education authorities to monitor the attendance because we expect them all to be at school so that we can take the appropriate actions when they get there.
COONEY: What would those appropriate actions be?
ROHORUA: Well obviously it's going to be disciplinary of some sort yes.
COONEY: Would I be right in thinking that could include termination?
ROHORUA: Well we'll see what sort of action we'll take, but certainly we'll consider those. I've made it very clear from the very beginning that the strike is illegal in the first instance. That's still my position. We'd tried to be very accommodating to the Teacher's Association. Now this week I asked them to come to the ministry so we can sort out the differences in our records, because that's one of the sticking points. They're arguing that their records don't reflect the kind of exercise that we're doing. And I said look, if we have differences you can come to our office, I will compare our statistics. But you can't hold teachers and especially students on the grounds for just an administrative matter.
COONEY: You I understand were thinking or considering talking to principals about trying to persuade teachers. Have you spoken to principals and school heads about this as well?
ROHORUA: Well it's difficult to talk to principals around the country but we certainly had a meeting here just in Honiara, and the principals and head teachers were in fact looking forward to calling the strike off so they can start school yesterday. But the Association was quite reluctant and still determined that the strike will go on. It was like a compromise, that's why I invited the Teacher's Association to come with their numbers so we can look at them, even though it's just an administrative matter.
COONEY: The walkout last week was over a promised pay increase which was not forthcoming due according to the Ministry to issues with records and infrastructure. The Solomon Islands teachers' union says till they get that payment their members will not be returning, and the president, Sampson Faisi, says Mr Rohorua's words won't change their minds.
FAISI: Our objective was to meet this morning and we've argued to continue with the strike, so for the Ministry to say they'll discipline all teachers, that's one of the techniques used by this government in order to suppress our issues which we believe that they're created and they would like to shift the blame to SINTA. But we told all teachers and anyone who is interested that the strike still continues and we will not back down from our original demand [indecipherable] classes.
COONEY: Fred Rohorua has repeated his assurance that the pay issue is being dealt with.
ROHORUA: The issue is not the pay, the Government hasn't said they will not pay, we're committed, we're going to pay and we've done most of the relevelling exercise. The only thing difficulty that they had was because it was slow the last pay day. But I can say with confidence that the pay is in now, the next pay day the teachers will get that pay. But the question now arises, how are they going to repay the students for the time they lost in school?

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