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Sagicor up by $0.10 to $7.95

Business - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 00:16

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 15 securities of which four advanced, two declined and nine traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 139,790 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $1,278,012.39. Trinidad Cement Limited was the volume leader with 95,812 shares changing hands for a value of $287,459, followed by National Flour Mills Limited with a volume of 12,419 shares being traded for $21,733.25. Guardian Holdings Limited contributed 10,000 shares with a value of $169,900, while One Caribbean Media Limited added 5,000 shares valued at $61,700.

Sagicor Financial Corporation Limited registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.10 to end the day at $7.95. Conversely, T&T NGL Limited registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.08 to close at $29.90.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 5,845 shares valued at $119,834.95. It remained at $20.50.

In Tuesday’s trading session the following reflect the movement of the TTSE Indices:

• The Composite Index advanced by 0.92 points (0.07 per cent) to close at 1,234.14.

• The All T&T Index declined by 0.52 points (0.03 per cent) to close at 1,726.88.

• The Cross Listed Index advanced by 0.33 points (0.33 per cent) to close at 99.62.

Categories: News

Protest at TCL over work conditions

Business - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 00:10

Workers at Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) yesterday claimed the conditions they are forced to work under are close to slavery.

Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) branch president Ahmed Mohammed said workers are being threatened that if they do not comply to new directives from management, they will lose their jobs.

More than a dozen workers gathered at the company’s main entrance at the Claxton Bay plant for a protest ahead of the morning shift yesterday.

Mohammed said what made the acts of intimidation worse, is that it comes against the backdrop of TCL’s planned retrenchment of 100 workers.

“Workers are being threatened and intimidated, in that, if you want to keep your job, you do two and three people’s jobs. Here you also have the unilateral variation of terms and conditions of employment,” he said.

Mohammed also complained about delays in union dues deducted from workers’ salaries getting to the OWTU. He said this could create difficulties for workers who might be in need of representation at the Industrial Court.

TCL officials did not respond to requests for comment on the workers’ claims.

Categories: News

Businesses underinsured for disaster

Business - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 00:09

With the onset of the rainy and hurricane seasons, it is critical that businesses and individuals not only have insurance but proper coverage.

Underinsurance is a big problem in T&T, said Janice Sorzano, of Guardian General Insurance who has been in the industry for 39 years. In many instances, the sum insured doesn’t even match the value of the risk.

“That’s not something people recognise until they have a claim. You’re actually out of pocket, you have already suffered a disaster and you want to be put back into the condition you were in before but because of under insurance you will actually receive less money.

“I can tell you that has prevailed even from my early days of insurance and it has continued because people don’t have the money to pay the premium, or they choose to absorb part of the risk. That’s why it’s very prevalent. A lot of businesses and individuals—property for instance—are underinsured. Ninety per cent of the time when we look at losses and settle claims they are actually under insured,” she said.

Sorzano was speaking during a panel discussion hosted by the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Equip Your Business for Disaster: Reduce the Risk, Raise the Response, yesterday. She said in such cases the average is applied, resulting in people receiving less monies.

Marcus Lewis, of Cable and Wireless Business, said apart from the obvious loss of data during a disaster there are certain tangible risks people don’t often think about.

Citing loss of reputation he said: “People will actually find that their intellectual capital has been compromised.”

Preventative measures and disaster recovery initiatives are critical to combat this, Lewis urged.

For many companies that do have an existing disaster recovery plan, this is rarely tested and almost never adjusted to meet the evolving needs of the business, said Rianna Paul, manager of the Trade and Business Development and International Trade Negotiation Unit of the T&T Chamber.

In the case of small and medium-sized enterprises, US statistics state that over 50 per cent have no disaster recovery plan at all.

The local situation, she said, is likely to be similar or perhaps even worse.

“As the southern-most island nation, Trinidad and Tobago often times escapes mostly unscathed during the Atlantic hurricane season.

“However, as weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable, we can no longer afford to assume that we will remain immune to catastrophic events,” Paul said.

She said that while there aren’t readily available statistics on disaster recovery locally or regionally, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US, more than 40 per cent of businesses never reopen after a disaster, and for those that do only 29 per cent are still operating after two years.

“What’s worse, 93 per cent of companies that lose access to their vital digitally stored data for nine days or more after a disaster are bankrupt within a year,” Paul said.

Categories: News

Suspect held after knife attack

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:59

Scores of cinema patrons had to be refunded after an incident at MovieTowne, Invader’s Bay, in Port-of-Spain after a 34-year-old female employee was attacked on Monday by a man armed with a knife.

According to a police report, at about 7.30 pm Crystal Patterson was at a concession desk when she was approached by a 25-year-old man. Police said the two had an argument before the man took out a knife and was about to stab her when she raised her hand and blocked him. The woman sustained a cut to her finger.

However, MovieTowne’s security personnel quickly intervened and held the suspect before turning him over to the police.

Patterson was taken to the St James Medical Facility where she was treated. Up to press time yesterday, the suspect was still in police custody at the St James Police Station assisting police in their investigations.

Given this latest incident, MovieTowne’s chairman, Derek Chin assured the public that the establishment “is still the safest place to be in the country.”

Chin said that all prior attacks have stemmed from “personal issues.”

In an official statement, MovieTowne described the incident as “unfortunate” and added that the matter was “swiftly dealt with and the sole perpetrator was immediately apprehended and handed over to the authorities.”

Categories: News

Floods swamp La Brea beaches with garbage

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:57

La Brea Fisherfolk Association president Alvin La Borde is requesting the urgent removal of mounds of garbage which have been washing up on the beaches following heavy rainfall over the past few days.

The garbage, now mixed with the decaying fish carcases, has created a health hazard, La Borde said, as he urged the authorities to act with haste.

“This has been happening in the community of La Brea every time the rainy season sets in because the coastline is shaped like a sort of basin, from Pt Sable beach to Carat Shed beach going to Coffee Beach to Market Beach and Station Beach. It will capture a lot of the garbage coming out of the different major watercourses in the Gulf of Paria,” he said.

The garbage, which included appliances, plastic bottles, branches, even a water cooler, began washing up following torrential showers on Sunday. If the rubbish is not removed, La Borde said the beaches will become a breeding site for mosquitoes.

He recalled that the Siparia Regional Corporation used to send a team three times a week to clean the beaches and CEPEP also used to send a crew to clean the beaches.

“I am calling on those in charge to set up a crew to clean the beaches on a regular basis because once it rains this is going to happen. If the garbage is not removed it is going to cause a lot of sicknesses,” he said.

La Borde said he informed the corporation, Disaster Preparedness and Management Team, MP Nicole Olivierre, Environmental Management Authority and the Health Ministry about the situation, but nothing has been done.

Corporation chairman Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said the situation is engaging the corporation’s urgent attention and they are contacting the various agencies to effect a response.

Categories: News

DUI charge against judge amended

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:55

State prosecutors have been given the green light to correct a clerical error in a drunk driving case against High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan.

During a hearing of the case at the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Magistrate Duane Murray granted an application from the Office of the Director Public Prosecution (DPP) to amend the charge.

At the first hearing on May 28, investigators admitted that they mistakenly wrote that Ramcharan was charged under Section 70(4)(1) of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act when he was in fact charged under Section 70 (A)(1).

Ramcharan’s lawyers, Gilbert Peterson, SC, and Keith Scotland, did not oppose the application.

Although the charge was amended, it was not read to Ramcharan to allow him to enter a plea. That process is expected to be done during the next hearing of the case on September 4.

State prosecutor Mauricia Joseph said she had been recently assigned to the case and that her office had only received the case file from investigators on Monday. She said she would need time to disclose the evidence against Ramcharan to his defence team as required under the recently introduced Criminal Procedure Rules.

According to reports, around 11 pm on May 26, Ramcharan was driving his Land Rover Discovery when he was involved in an accident along Saddle Road, Maraval.

When police arrived on the scene, Ramcharan was administered a breathalyser test.

He allegedly registered a reading of 55 microgrammes of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

The charge was laid by PC Rondell Romany of the St Clair Police Station and Ramcharan was released on $15,000 bail.

Since being charged, Ramcharan has recused himself from one case where a member of his defence team was representing a litigant before him. The case, which was completed by Ramcharan and was awaiting judgment, has since been reassigned.

Categories: News

‘Ferry problems were resolved’

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:44

Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday gave the assurance that the problems the Galleons Passage encountered during a sea trial in 2017 have been resolved and the vessel was given the highest seaworthiness score by one of the world’s leading and respected classification societies — Lloyd’s Register.

This as Imbert clarified information on the seven documents he circulated in Parliament last Friday relating to the purchase of the vessel. The minister said a number of newspaper articles made reference to the perceived issues regarding the vessel’s condition but did not publish information contained in Lloyd’s Register pre-purchase condition survey, one of the documents laid in House.

On Monday, Opposition Senator Wade Mark said having perused the documents Imbert supplied to the Parliament, they lacked detailed information.

Mark also stated that Imbert had submitted only five of 59 pages in the valuation report, which Imbert denied.

For the avoidance of doubt, Imbert said when a passenger vessel is being purchased a condition survey report is usually obtained from a classification society that validates and reports the construction of a vessel in accordance with relevant standards.

Having surveyed and classified thousands of vessels for decades, Imbert said Lloyd’s Register did a determination and confirmation of the Galleons Passage seaworthiness.

Imbert cited page 8 of Lloyd’s Register pre-purchase condition of the vessel which had been circulated to all Members of the House last week and stated that “problem with engine vibration and shafting and stern bearing found during the sea trial were solved... Shaft seal temperatures were measured and found satisfactory.”

In rebutting Mark’s claims that the vessel was not seaworthy, Imbert said Lloyd’s Register which is the final arbiter on the condition of a passenger vessel gave the Galleons Passage a category one status.

“That is the highest category for all items surveyed. The highest possible score given by Lloyd’s Register.”

Lloyd’s Register examined the hull, deck, superstructure, engines, mechanical, electrical, lifesaving and safety equipment, piping systems, gears, controls and generators of the vessel. The vessel is currently in Cuba where a canopy is being installed on the vehicle deck. It is expected to travel to T&T by July 10.

Categories: News

CAL under fire for hiring practices

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:42

Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) came under criticism yesterday for breaching its own recruitment policy.

With the safety of passengers and security in mind, the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on State Enterprises chaired by David Small, in its Fifth Report, has strongly recommended that the airline restart the process for all positions which were filled without conducting background security checks on applicants.

CAL’s chief executive officer Garvin Medera was also accused by committee member Wade Mark of ignoring, violating and breaching a number of policies.

“We cannot in 2018, ignore in a world where we have experienced acts of terrorism and for a company’s CEO to do so, it is the height of reckless conduct and behaviour and this CEO ought to be taken to task on this particular point,” Mark said.

JSC member, Fazal Karim admitted that the matter was previously brought up with CAL and added that he believes that they had sufficient time to ensure background checks are done.

Karim recommended that CAL should indicate to the committee who are the employees or what positions in which background checks are still pending, “and whether they are on the job, because we would not like to think that if anything happens untoward on the compound or in the air that we will lament this may have been one of the opportunities caused as a result of not doing or not having these background checks.”

Small said CAL’s new management is conducting a review of that policy to establish which positions would need security checks.

“They have flouted their own policy and hired persons adverse to their own policies and we have recommended that simply you would have to restart the process,” Small said. He however, left the mechanics to do such up to the airline.

Karim said that the JSC is also concerned that the recent recruitment and selection process engaged by CAL to recruit people to its management team without adhering to proper and established procedure. He disclosed that the number of new managers, about six, are former employees of Digicel T&T, “the former employer of the incumbent CEO at CAL.”

“The fact that the incumbent CEO sat on the interview panel that interviewed persons from Digicel, which is an obvious conflict of interest and breach of good human resource practice,” Karim said.

An additional area of concern identified by the JSC was CAL’s “continued practice” of seeking overseas pilots “without seeming to make an effort to establish whether any local pilots could be sourced.”

It was also disclosed that according to submissions received dated May 11, 2018, as at April 30, 2018, CAL owed an outstanding sum of $193.3 million to the T&T Airports Authority.

Contact for a response, CAL’s head of corporate communications Dionne Ligoure said that CAL is awaiting receipt of the official report from the Joint Select Committee.

“Once the report is received and reviewed the airline will be in a position to respond to your questions,” Ligoure said.

Categories: News

Businessman gives $5,000 for baby’s scan

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:30

A Chaguanas businessman has donated $5,000 to ensure that baby Christopher Sahadeo Poonilal gets the urgent medical treatment he needs.

Dipnarinesingh’s Tours and Travel owner Rajiv Dipnarinesingh said he was reading the digital T&T Guardian around 2 am yesterday when he came across the story about baby Christopher. He said he was touched by the story he decided to donate all the money needed for the scan for the one-year-old.

“I am a parent and I understand what this family is feeling. After reading the story I became very emotional and I decided there and then to make sure the medical bills are taken care of,” Dipnarinesingh told Guardian Media yesterday.

He appealed to the business community to ensure the underprivileged in society are taken care of. He said despite harsh economic times everyone must be each other’s keeper.

“If we want to build a society we cannot just talk charity and good deeds, we must also walk the walk. We must truly become our brother’s keeper. There is so much talk about bringing back the old time days, my challenge is to those who can spare go out there and assist.”

Dipnarinesingh handed a cheque the baby’s parents, Curtis Poonilal and Christine Sahadeo, at his Eleanor Street, Chaguanas office around midday yesterday.

Poonilal, who said they were grateful for the money, said his phone was bombarded with calls after the story appeared in the newspaper. He said people are also willing to assist them with food and baby supplies since they are both unemployed and live on handouts.

Baby Christopher has been suffering seizures since the couple’s house at Rio Claro collapsed in December and ceiling tiles fell on his head. The money is to undertake an electroencephalography scan on the child’s brain at a private medical hospital after he was admitted to the San Fernando General Hospital after suffering a seizure. The child was treated at the hospital and has since been discharged, but the scan he needed could not be done there because the electroencephalography machine has been down for the past two years.

A team of doctors led by Dr Rajindra Parag has been caring for Christopher. Anyone wanting to contact the family can call 380-3606.

Categories: News

Anti-Terrorism Bill faces Senate test

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:29

One final hurdle ahead for the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

Government may have been happy with yesterday’s passage of the bill in the Lower House with Opposition support, but the administration is watching to see how the Opposition deals with it in the Senate where the bill will be examined tomorrow and Friday.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi was hugged and kissed by his PNM colleague Terrence Deyalsingh and Al-Rawi shook hands with Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar following yesterday’s unanimous passage of the bill, which became a point of contention in the final stage of discussions over the last three weeks.

The bill to outlaw terrorist activity and terrorist financing had required a special majority vote of 24 for passage. Both Government and Opposition MPs desk-thumped approval after voting for it. The Lower House also adjourned indefinitely (“sine die”) for its mid-year recess.

On Monday, Senate leader Franklin Khan said if the bill was passed in the Lower House, the Senate - which adjourned Monday - would meet on it tomorrow and Friday.

Yesterday’s passage was the conclusion of 18 months of work since it was announced by Government in February 2017. Then, T&T was in the international spotlight regarding confirmation of 130 T&T nationals joining the Islamic State terror group. Last October it was amended to 180. The bill was sent to a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee for scrutiny and stakeholder consultations.

While 26 of the bill’s 45 clauses were amended by the JSC process, Government and Opposition argued recently on the issue, particularly about further Opposition amendments.

Yesterday, Persad-Bissessar, revisiting certain clauses, said she was disturbed at Government’s comments.

“We want to fight terrorism but we must balance this with human rights. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Nelson Mandela was on a watch-list,” she noted.

House Speaker Brigid Annisette-George interjected that the bill was examined by the JSC and a unanimous report done. Noting Persad-Bissessar’s view that the Parliament wasn’t a rubber stamp, she added the situation was like an organism eating itself - almost tantamount to abuse of Parliament. Persad-Bissessar protested. But Annisette-George said she wasn’t accusing either side.

Persad-Bissessar added that the Opposition wanted to find common ground, but was undermined by Government’s head. After the final unanimous vote, Persad-Bissessar told reporters,”I find it very unfair a one-sided perspective was given and no-one in the Opposition was asked to respond on claims we were against the bill.”

“We reached so far, in a bill of 45 clauses, they accepted most of our amendments, we just had concerns about six so why this pavement kind of ‘terrorist’ buffing of the Opposition? Then you jump on a plane and gone. Not even here to vote for something you claim is so important,” she added of the Prime Minister’s absence and recent criticism of the Opposition.

Government leader Camille Robinson-Regis told reporters Government was watching how Opposition senators would handle the bill.

“We won’t be surprised if we see a different reaction to today - 26 clauses were amended yet they had more. With the first JSC report they tried to negatise it through their MPs signed it,” Robinson-Regis said.

At an earlier media briefing, Robinson-Regis accused Persad-Bissessar of stirring up religious interest - when she addressed Muslims last Saturday - and countermanding her own MPs in the JSC report.

“It appears the UNC ‘s trying to win the Muslim vote in Barataria by-elections by trying to make Government appear anti-Muslim. A large percentage of the electorate lives in El Socorro and they’re seeking to get their favour.”

Commenting on the decision yesterday, the Muslims of T&T PRO Imtiaz Mohammed said they weren’t 100 per cent satisfied with the outcome of the debate and would be keeping a close watch on how the bill will be dealt with in upcoming Senate debate.

“Although some of our major concerns have been addressed and amended, there are still areas - such as regarding returning T&T nationals - which we have concerns about. The jail time and fines outlined in this bill under certain amendments is a gross injustice to citizens. If one is affected by this fine, his entire family can become homeless. Also, the designation of certain areas - as restricted - is also still of concern to us.”

Categories: News

2,595 SEA pupils score under 30%

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:27

While thousands of students celebrate their Secondary Entrance Assessment results today, more than 2,500 will face disappointment having scored below 30 per cent in the exams.

Statistics obtained by the T&T Guardian show that overall, students scored lower this year in Mathematics than they did since 2010. Some 58.8 per cent of students scored over 50 per cent for 2018. For this decade, the highest Mathematics scores were recorded in 2011 (73.1 per cent) and 2012 (72. 4 per cent). In Grammar, 57.7 per cent of the pupils scored over 50 per cent this year, compared to 76.4 last year and 72.8 in 2015.

In an interview yesterday, T&T Unified Teachers Association president Lynsley Doodhai said the statistics were worrying, especially since 2,170 pupils scored less than 30 per cent last year compared to 2,595 pupils scoring less than 30 per cent this year.

“This represents 13.6 per cent of the 19,185 pupils who sat the exams this year and it is something that we must address,” Doodhai said.

He said while the Minister of Education Anthony Garcia and Minister in the Ministry Dr Lovell Francis visit the top students today, some focus must be placed on the ones who are likely to fall through the cracks because of poor performance. Defending the nation’s teachers, he said while some may be quick to blame teachers for poor performance, citizens should remember many of the students who underperform do so because of learning disabilities, poor parental support or behavioural challenges.

“Naturally, when you hear figures like this people immediately say that it is the fault of teachers. Maybe to a small extent, some teachers may have contributed to this by not fulfilling their functions as a teacher, but this is minuscule when you look at the real issues. In classes where you have students excelling and some students failing, they are taught by the same teachers so you cannot say it is the teachers’ fault,” he said.

“Don’t blame the teachers because some of these students have behavioural issues, learning disabilities and some don’t enjoy the level of parental support and involvement that they deserve.”

He called on Government to expend additional resources to the Student Support Services, saying there are not enough professionals in the unit to deal with increasing challenges at schools

Categories: News

Garcia accused of being vindictive

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:25

Private secondary schools are accusing Education Minister Anthony Garcia of being “ridiculous and vindictive,” as with two days to the end of the school year many of them are still awaiting payments of the student fees for the term. While they admit the ministry does not pay teachers’ salaries, they say because they have received no money from the ministry this term it is posing a serious challenge for them.

T&T Association of Private Secondary Schools president Leslie Hislop told the T&T Guardian yesterday that of the seven schools in his body only one had received payment.

“Two of the schools were called today (Tuesday) Caribbean Union College, of which I am principal and Bishops Centenary College indicating there was some problem on the form.”

He said he found it curious the forms, which were submitted just under a month ago, “that we adjusted four times based on your instructions, you now calling to say there is an error on the form. It is clear they are now trying to put it back on us as to the reason why the schools did not receive their money.”

But Hislop suspects this is a delay tactic by the ministry because the schools sought the fee increase from $1200 to $5700 per student per term.

He said the schools never had the “ministry question us too much about information on the forms and never had the ministry delayed in paying the forms. It has never been an issue until now, just so out of the blue? The Minister is just being ridiculous and vindictive,” Hislop said.

Hislop said he agreed with Garcia that the ministry does not pay the salaries of teachers in private schools, but he said the reality is that “we have exhausted all sources of income and just as tuition fees from other students who attend the schools is used to help pay the salaries of teachers, the tuition fees that are paid by the Government for the students who they have in the schools is what helps to pay the salaries of the teachers.”

Hislop explained, “When you have a school where the salary bill is probably about $200,000 for the month and the tuition from the Government is close to half a million dollars for the term, that’s two months out of the term’s salaries we are talking about that is paid out of the tuition fees paid by the Ministry of Education.”

He said he got a call from someone in the ministry’s accounts department yesterday morning regarding an error on the form, which the Director of Schools Supervision (DSS) had signed off on with the error on it. He explained that after the meeting between Garcia and the association on June 8, he went to the office to sign the form which the DSS had signed with the error for a payment of $5,702.84 per student on it.

“I jokingly remarked then that the DSS had already signed it and let them pay us the $2.5 million that was on it,” Hislop said, noting the actual payment should have been $1200 per child and the total amount should have been just over $530,000.

As such, Hislop said he found it difficult to understand why “there is a challenge a whole month after. That was done on the eighth of June, the very same day we had the meeting with the minister today, the third of July, four weeks after, you now calling to tell me there is an error on the form, I mean really! That is being ridiculous and vindictive.”

Categories: News

2,000 students face eviction

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 23:24

The Government will have to find spaces for almost 2,000 students enrolled in private secondary schools if it fails to resolve an ongoing dispute over a proposed increase in fees owed to schools before the opening of the new school year in September, T&T Association of Private Secondary Schools president Leslie Hislop said yesterday.

He made the comment at a press conference at Bishops Centenary College in Woodbrook yesterday, hours after the T&T Guardian reported that teachers at the school walked off the job on Monday due to non-payment of salaries. The non-payment was caused by delays in the Ministry of Education’s dispensation of fees for students this term, which has affected the cash-strapped school’s ability to pay its monthly wages.

Hislop explained that since 2015 they had been in negotiations with the ministry on increasing the fee per student per term from $1,200 to $5,700.

“When 80 per cent of your school population is being paid for by the State and they are paying what they are paying, it is financially impossible to continue. So these students will have to be reassigned somewhere else because the reality is these schools are looking at closure,” Hislop said.

He estimated that there are 2,600 Government students enrolled in his members’ schools and claimed most of the schools were only able to operate under the fee structure in the past due to intervention from religious organisations affiliated with them.

“The simple reason for that is that over the years the religious organisations that manage and run these schools have been subsidising the costs of education to the nation’s children to the tune of approximately $1.5 million per year,” Hislop said.

He explained that last December the association submitted a proposal for the increased fees but the ministry only met with them last month after they made repeated claims over the ministry’s failure to make payments for the entire school term.

“I told the officials that they need to stop frustrating the private schools and just pay what is owed,” Hislop said.

Asked whether the dispute would affect placements of this year’s Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) students, who will receive their results today, Hislop said he was told none would be made.

“We are willing to accept the Government students. However, it is financially impossible for the schools to continue to educate students at a cost of $1200 per term,” he said.

Hislop also claimed that schools are also unable to raise their fees for private students because of the rate paid by Government.

“There are parents who are saying why do I have to pay more than what Government is paying for the students? It puts schools in a position where it is even difficult to carry the figure to what it should be because parents are holding us to ransom,” he said, noting the average fee for private students is currently between $3,500 and $4,000 per term.

Anthony McCollin, a representative of the organisation, called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley or Finance Minister Colm Imbert to intervene, as he said the dispute would also seriously affect children and their parents should they have to shut down operations come September when the new school year resumes.

“Parents are now uncertain if they would have to change uniforms, books or their whole transportation arrangement. We have not seen any action or political will and we are asking for the intervention of the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance,” McCollin said.

Bishops Centenary College’s board chair Grace Talma also gave an account of how the impasse had affected her institution.

“I am concerned because for two days now this school has not been able to provide any educational contribution to students. They had to leave because the teachers have left the school because they haven’t been paid for the whole term,” Talma said.

She explained that all but 60 of the 478 students enrolled at the school were placed there by Government.

Addressing the issue, during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament, Garcia reiterated that Government was not responsible for paying teachers’ salaries at the private schools. However, he admitted that there had been delays in paying fees for the current term three.

Categories: News

SEA results show lowest scores in Math since 2010

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 17:13

While thousands of students celebrate their Secondary Entrance Assessment results today, more than 2,500 pupils will face disappointment having scored below 30 per cent in the 2018 exam. 

Statistics obtained by the Guardian show that overall, students scored the lowest this year in Mathematics than they did since 2010. 

In Mathematics 58.8 per cent of pupils scored over 50 per cent for 2018. 

For this decade, the highest Mathematics scores were recorded in 2011 and 2012 - 73.1 per cent in 2011 and 72. 4 per cent in 2012. 

In Grammar,  57.7 per cent of students scored over 50 per cent for 2018, compared to 76.4 in 2017 and 72.8 in 2015.

In an interview, president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association Lynsley Doodhai said the statistics were worrying especially since 2,170 pupils scored less than 30 per cent last year, compared to 2,595 pupils scoring less than 30 per cent this year.

"This represents 13.6 per cent of the 19,185 pupils who sat the exams this year and it is something that we must address," Doodhai added.

He said while the Minister of Education Anthony Garcia and Minister in the Ministry Dr Lovell Francis visits the top students today, some focus must be placed on the ones who are likely to fall through the cracks because of poor performance. 

Defending the nation's teachers Doodhai said while some may be quick to blame teachers for poor performance, citizens should remember that many of the pupils who underperform do so because of learning disabilities, poor parental support, or behavioural challenges. 

"Naturally when you hear figures like this people immediately say that it is the fault of teachers. Maybe to a small extent, some teachers may have contributed to this by not fulfilling their functions as a teacher but this is minuscule when you look at the real issues. In classes where you have students excelling and some students failing, they are taught by the same teachers so you cannot say it is the teachers' fault. 

Don't blame the teachers because some of these students have behavioural issues, learning disabilities and some don't enjoy the level of parental support and involvement that they deserve," Doodhai said.

He called on the government to expend additional resources to the Student Support Services saying there were not enough professionals at the SSS to deal with increasing challenges at schools.

"There are students who are in need of special education programmes but the requisite number of specialized people are not there. This is one of the major reasons why students are falling through the cracks. Most teachers are not trained to deal with students like these and even if the teacher is trained it is difficult to deal with the special needs children when dealing with an overcrowded curriculum and syllabus," Doodhai added.

He said those students who are over 13 years old and who scored below 30 per cent will be placed in a secondary school even though they are unable to read or write. Doodhai called on the government to provide remedial teachers in schools to help these pupils.

Efforts to contact the president of the National Parent Teachers Association President Raffiena Ali-Boodoosingh proved futile yesterday as calls and messages sent to her cellular phone went unanswered. 

The Ministry in a statement said Minister Anthony Garcia will be visiting the schools of the top three students to announce the results.  

The team will be at the first school at 8:30 am.

Categories: News

'Student of the Year' award given posthumously to San Fernando Central pupil

News - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 14:35

Joy mixed with sadness at the San Fernando Central Secondary School graduation and award ceremony yesterday, as a posthumous award was given in memory of Yayu Zhu, ten months after she perished in a blaze.

Zhu's father  Dongcong Zhu and mother JinmeiXu (Mary) were not present to collect the award during the function which took place at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando. 

Zhu who died on September 25 last year, was fondly called Ami by her classmates and teachers. She was honoured with the Student of the Year award. 

Deputy DPP Joan Honore-Paul who delivered the feature address commended the graduates for excelling despite constraints.

Saying the boundaries which existed during her school life in the 1970's were no longer present for the millennium generation, Honore-Paul urged the students to be wise as they posted and digested information.

She said the confidence of the youths today was admirable, adding that students should play to their strengths and strive to be the best that they can be in their chosen field.

"Back in my day when we did research, we had to go to Carnegie Free Library and the UWI library. The world was not at your fingertips. I wonder if you realize what a gift that is. Today any thought, inquiry or question can be answered immediately on any topic current events, politics, economics. There are no boundaries," she said.

However, she cautioned that with the overload of information, students must never lose the ability to think for themselves.

"Question everything around you. Accessibility to knowledge should not shut down your opinion, it should feed your opinion. Don't be afraid to disagree with what you hear," Honore-Paul said.

She said technology has even knocked down language barriers, adding that long ago people chose to become doctors, lawyers, and teachers whereas nowadays students can do just as well by becoming a successful you-tuber.

Principal Cindy Khan said while her school has achieved 90 per cent full certificates at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination, the infrastructure at her school was in urgent need of upgrades.

She said cracks at the shifting Block F were widening daily and part of the playfield had to be cordoned off with caution tape as it was unsafe. She noted that the pre-fabricated structure at the front of the school was also falling apart and frustrated teachers had difficulties finding classrooms.

"As more CAPE subjects such as digital media and computer science are being introduced, we want to expand our syllabus but we are in need of increased staff, additional classrooms, and equipment," she said. 

Also receiving an award was Uthmaan Thompson was given the Student Extraordinaire award along with the Vice Principal's award for outstanding contribution to school life. The most Outstanding student was Mark Rambaran and Best Overall Academic Performance award went to Meenakshi Saroop.

Categories: News

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