Young woman protests the treatment of ‘substitute teachers,’ whose status is uncertain while summer work is demanded

An “exhausted, mentally tired, underpaid and under-appreciated” substitute teacher admits to being discouraged by the treatment meted out to her and her colleagues.

The young woman says they are concerned that the promise of permanent employment has not been kept, so far, and the date by which they are to be made full-time staff keeps receding.

A cadre of young teachers was taken on in the 2021-22 school year, and she notes that the Prime Minister promised they would be made permanent in January. But Ministry of Education officials later stated they will be made permanent by September of this year.

However, the young woman says, this is July, and they are now being given another excuse. She reports that the substitutes were told their confirmation has been delayed by some teachers’ failure to submit all their documents, and that the Establishment Division cannot process their applications piecemeal.

Their worries do not end there, however. The young woman – who admits she is burnt out after a hard year – says the teachers have been told they are not eligible for paid vacation, precisely because they are substitutes.

Accordingly, she says, they were ordered by Ministry officials to report to work at their assigned schools as of Monday.

Following that directive, she says, substitutes deployed to the secondary schools were notified today, Thursday, July 14, that they should report to The UWI Five Islands campus next Monday, July 18, ostensibly to assist in the staging of the Ministry of Education’s “STEM Infused Summer Camp.”

They are expected to work from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily until the camp concludes on August 19.

“I could have cried today. One thing after the next,” the substitute says. “They didn’t even ask us if we are up for this. Nothing! It’s basically, ‘If you want a job, if you want to be paid, do what we say, or else you will lose it all.’

“I also heard it isn’t even guaranteed we are going to be permanent. So all of this is for the unknown,” the dejected young teacher adds.

According to reports, the substitutes have no formal contract that obliges the Government to treat them like their permanent colleagues and, as a result, they are not paid for any time off – including certified sick leave.

“We just had to sign something that said we are substitute teachers assigned to the schools where they put us. It wasn’t a contract with terms and conditions, and it didn’t have an end date, either,” the young woman explains.

She confirms that she and her colleagues received Christmas and Easter vacation with pay, and so she is “not sure what made Summer any different,” she says.

“It is very discouraging, as a young individual, to be treated this way. I, for one, am very burnt out,” she says.

Accordingly, she is entreating the Ministry of Education to grant the substitutes “at least a week or two vacation,” especially since some of them had already made travel arrangements for the Summer.