Education minister appointment nothing to celebrate, says Speid

President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Owen Speid says while the association welcomes the appointment of Karl Samuda as minister of education, there is nothing to celebrate.

“I want to, first of all, congratulate him on being elevated to the post of full minister of education. [But] I don’t think there is anything to celebrate about the appointment, more than to say that we are happy that our request has been granted in terms of having a full minister,” Speid told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Samuda’s appointment was announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during his address at the first meeting of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) council on Wednesday.

Up to his appointment, Samuda had served as minister with portfolio responsibility for education, following the resignation of Ruel Reid from the Cabinet and Senate in March last year.

Both Reid and then president of the CMU, Professor Fritz Pinnock, are currently before the courts on multiple criminal charges.

Speid, who had long called for the appointment of a full-time education minister, said yesterday that the association in not “so much concerned” about who is assigned to the post.

“What we are concerned about, and we want to ensure, is that whoever is out there is willing and able to perform the task. And for him to perform the task, he has to be resourced, and he has to be given autonomy to formulate and implement the policies… When we talk about resources, we are talking about human and physical resources,” he argued.

Speid stressed that the 56-year-old association will be making demands of the Government.

“We are going to make demands of the Government, especially within the framework of the new normal and within the framework of that ultimatum that we gave the Government some months ago, regarding safety and security in the schools. Because we don’t want when we return to school our members are in the same position that they were — that they are exposed to all sorts of dangers, dangers coming in from their students and sometimes parents,” said Speid.

The president of the more than 25,000-member association also made it clear that Minister Samuda will not be getting a honeymoon period.

“He will have to start working assiduously, putting strategic plans in place within the next month or two, because September is not going to be the September it used to be,” he said.

“When we reopen schools, it is a different set-up and different challenges are going to be faced with. So, we need to move at a pace to start having the discussion and to really put forward that kind of blueprint as to what we are going to do if the COVID-19 crisis remains,” he said.

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