Deyalsingh: Teachers right to strike for safe environment

Psychiatrist and Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh says that teachers have the right to take industrial action guided by the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) to ensure a safe environment for students and themselves.

He was referring to the difficult environment that teachers must perform in because of COVID-19.

“At high school, at St Mary’s College, Father Anthony de Verteuil and Father Lai Fook influenced me with their unique styles. One teacher, Father Gerard Farfan was a trade union activist for teachers’ rights, he drafted the TTUTA Constitution and even taught students the right to stand up for our rights even if it was against the Government of the day. After all these years, I still see TTUTA championing for better working conditions for teachers,” he said.

Deyalsingh spoke at an administrators’ conference for principals of primary and secondary schools on Friday.

He also said principals are responsible for the safe COVID-19 environment in schools and a lapse could result in the death of a child or teacher.

He added that in January, Irish trade unions had opposed school opening describing it as “rushed and reckless.”

He pointed to a survey in Ireland of 600 principals carried out by Trinity College Dublin which showed that most feel their schools have performed well and that teaching staff have adapted to the new conditions.

The study also showed that 78 per cent feel drained at the end of the work

“In January Irish Unions representing school staff have expressed alarm over the Government’s decision to partially reopen schools for special needs and Leaving Certificate students describing it as ‘rushed and reckless’.”

Deyalsingh also said that COVID-19 brought anxiety and fear of self and family being infected, and statistics show that around 50 to 60 per cent of people with depression do not seek help.

He added that 18 per cent of people who recovered from COVID-19 infections develop a mental health disorder and urged teachers to look at their staff.

He gave the view that principals and teachers are the ones to save the next generation as they can mould young minds to be civic-minded and teachers can identify children with learning difficulties.