Maurice Moore Teacher Terminated

by: Nina Laing, FN Reporter

Teacher calls the Ministry's directives "vicious" and "vindictive"
A Maurice Moore teacher who taught at the school for 14 years says she was "disengaged"  Thursday morning because of her involvement in the ongoing conflict between The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Ministry of Education.
Senior Trained Teacher Anne DeCarvalho said she was "vocal"  in meetings between the BUT and education officials concerning the primary school's principal and, as a result, was served walking papers shortly after reporting for work Thursday morning.
DeCarvalho, a permanent resident originally from Trinidad and Tobago, has been an educator in The Bahamas since 1989.
Now, 24 years later, the science teacher is unemployed at the end of the first week of classes.
While the Ministry of Education has the right to terminate whomever it pleases, DeCarvalho explained that expatriates are typically given a month's notice before termination or termination letters are distributed to teachers at the end of the academic year, if necessary.
However, DeCarvalho said her service disengagement letter, which was dated Monday, September 2, 2013, but received on Thursday, September 5, 2013, was made effective immediately.
DeCarvalho said the Ministry of Education's decision to terminate her at this time in the academic year is a clear display of victimization that has rendered her virtually unemployable in the country.
"I can't work in The Bahamas except as a teacher,"  she said.
" What they have done is precluded me from getting another job.
"They have fired me in the middle of the school year. Most schools have employed their people.
"Just as the Ministry of Education wants a full complement of teachers when school starts" "so do most schools, not just in The Bahamas but anywhere in the world,"  DeCarvalho said.
Her disengagement comes after having invested thousands of dollars into her students through purchasing educational and decorative items for her classroom and a number of books for the children.
To further complicate matters, DeCarvalho said that at the time of her termination, she was not given any gratuity or severance pay.
"I have dependents, I have bills, I don't know if my creditors are going to see me, I have to see them because they themselves are going to be wondering, " How is she going to make her commitments."I don't know what I'm going to do,"  DeCarvalho said.
Yet, she is not disheartened about losing her job.
She said she is only "heartbroken"  that after fighting for better programs for Maurice Moore students that education officials decided the only solution to the problem was to remove her from the institution.
DeCarvalho, allegedly, was not the only educator moved from the school.
On Tuesday, two teachers and a guidance counselor were served transfer letters. Since that time, the three have started their jobs at their new locations.
In their place, recent college graduates have been added to the Maurice Moore teaching staff, this according to an educator who wished to remain anonymous.
This educator said the switch was strategically set in motion by the Ministry.
"They are fresh out of (The College of the Bahamas) and the reality is, they are not confirmed. Anything the Ministry says, they have to take it.
"Until you've been confirmed by the Ministry of Education, you have nothing to say. If they move you after you've decorated your classes "then you have to go,"  she said.
The educator went on to say, " The Ministry doesn't want a fight.
"They want to calm the school down. They don't want to calm the school down by getting rid of the problem.
"They want to get rid of the supposed problem. So they prefer to transfer and fire four as opposed to getting rid of the one who has a track record of being a problem." 
According to DeCarvalho, the transferred educators were all individuals who were frontrunners in calling for improved conditions at Maurice Moore.
The disgruntled teachers have had several meetings with BUT and education officials and though these officials have promised to "work with"  the teachers, DeCarvalho said they have instead dispersed the teachers in what, she said, is a move to quash their efforts.
"It leaves you with the impression that no matter how hard you work, no matter how committed and dedicated you are "if the Ministry says so, just be quiet. I didn't realize that The Bahamas was a place where you couldn't voice your opinion,"  DeCarvalho said.
" This is to silence anybody who is going to be vocal. This is also a target against the union. It's a war with the union. (The Ministry of Education) is saying, "We are doing it and the union cannot do anything." Now teachers are going to be afraid to speak out. They are going to be afraid to have any action because they realize now that the Ministry in their zest and their zeal to show their authority and their power is going to be moving teachers." 
DeCarvalho called the latest directives from the Ministry of Education "vicious"  and "vindictive." 
DeCarvalho maintained that every move she has made amid the controversy at the school was to see better programs implemented for the improvement of the students.
"It's not that you're protesting against bad services for the teacher or protesting against the classroom. You are protesting because the programs that are supposed to be for the betterment of the children are being squashed,"  she said.
DeCarvalho said she is disappointed that amid the conflict at the primary school, Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald never sat and spoke with the teachers personally to access the situation, yet has made authoritative remarks concerning the matter.
She said that she has dedicated "the best years"  of her life to educating Bahamian children and though she may have lost her job in the process of "fighting"  for quality education, DeCarvalho said given the chance to do it over, she would not change a thing.
" I would be very disappointed in myself if I had sat back and allowed the principal to just not care about the children, not care about the programs, not care about the schools. I had tried to be quiet for a long time, but I would be disappointed if I didn't say anything. If this is the consequence of speaking out, so be it,"  she said.
DeCarvalho said she would encourage more teachers to be brave and speak out against the conditions at the school.
She said that though four voices can be silenced, it is far more difficult to quiet an entire teaching staff.
"With everything else we have succeeded in getting in history, it has always been a group effort. People have to stand up. The Ministry of Education cannot transfer every single teacher who decides to stand up, but they can pick off the one or two,"  she said.
DeCarvalho added that government school teachers nationwide ought to take note of what is happening at Maurice Moore.
She claimed that the issue is not a localized one, but it is something that can happen at any school where there may be a conflict.
"At this time in history, the Ministry of Education is not sympathetic and compassionate to the needs of the students and the teachers,"  DeCarvalho said.
"This, what the Ministry is doing, everybody should feel affected by this. It means that if anything happens in your school today, tomorrow, in the future, you are going to be silenced. If you allow the union to be degraded and not have the power, then you can forget it."

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