Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon has urged the Gibraltar Government to halt its rush to complete the schools programme within its electoral term and engage in “constructive and open” dialogue with teachers.
This comes after 47 Westside School teachers issued a statement via the Gibraltar Teachers Association, criticising the decision taken by its Senior Leadership Team, and backed by the Gibraltar Government, to ban union members from holding meetings and conducting union business at school premises.
Mrs Hassan Nahon described the move as “regrettable” and said whether or not certain senior staff members at the schools and/or the Government agree with the reported extent of the consultation process to date, there must be a channel for a free flow of opinions and views to be expressed.
“Failing to facilitate teachers’ access to their union does nothing to diminish the perception that those within the profession who do not agree with how the project is progressing should be silenced,” she said.
“Banning the union from school premises and thus making it harder for them to consult their membership is as undemocratic as it is dangerous to the process of free speech and consequently, real and genuine progress for the education system.”
“It does not take a seasoned politician to appreciate that policy changes affect real people.”
“Equally, it does not take a veteran legislator to understand that if a policy is to be successful, they would be well advised to listen to the concerns of the interested parties that any given policy will affect, rather than attempt to block and discredit the union that airs those concerns.”
In respect of co-education, Mrs Hassan Nahon said this is not as divisive as it once was, and that the majority of teachers feel that moving to a co-education format for secondary schools will be a long-term path that will ultimately be very beneficial to the community.
“But the principle of the policy is not followed by the process – the Government is not seeing this as a long-term path but rather a short-term rush,” she added.
“This is where the danger lies on an issue which is absolutely crucial to get right for the benefit of our children and future generations.”
Indeed, Mrs Hassan Nahon explained that one of the main concerns that have been expressed to her is the ‘rush’ to complete the programme within the next two years.
“As with any half-baked policy, the victims of short-termism are the interested parties,” she said.
“In this case, these are the members of one of society’s most valued professions.”
Politicians, she said, should accept that teachers know more about teaching than they do, and work more closely with them for the benefit of all concerned.
“They should be humble to the fact that teachers deal with the ever-changing world of education and the classroom.”
“As our society develops through a myriad of social advancements, technology, and reform, so too does the profession of teaching.”
“Classroom teachers, by virtue of their experience, are versatile minds who have to deal with the educational needs of a variety of students, and often through very different generations.”
The politician has a lot to learn from the teacher, Mrs Hassan Nahon added.
“Not only is it a show of incompetence to disregard any interested party in a policy formation, but to effectively disrespect the expertise of teachers is truly regrettable.”
“This could have been avoided if the Government took an approach that appreciated constructive and open dialogue with one of society’s most crucial professions and put aside its rush to complete the schools within its electoral term.”