Opposition MP questions ministry

Opposition MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu speaking Mikaele Leawere outside the parliament complex in Suva. Picture: FT FILE

OPPOSITION spokesperson for education Mikaele Leawere has questioned the Education Ministry about what would happen to teachers if their paid leave days were exhausted.

He made the comments in response to a circular sent out by the ministry to teachers on Sunday.

In the circular, Education Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said claims that the removal of compassionate leave and the introduction of the student free days would see teachers having fewer paid leave days than before were false.

He however, said with the 2018/2019 budget, teachers would have a higher number of paid leave days during the school year.

This is inclusive of 21 sick days, three bereavement days, five family care leave days, regular school holidays, expanded paid maternity leave of 98 working days, and the newly-introduced paid paternity leave of five days.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said teachers now had dedicated time set aside for their own professional development counted as paid work time.

Mr Leawere said compassionate leave was an entitlement enjoyed by civil servants including teachers and it was taken when unforeseen circumstances occurred.

This, he says, may include instances where a teacher’s babysitter not turning up in a day, water stoppage at home or a teacher’s immediate family falling very ill.

“These are some issues to be considered when teachers face such a dilemma as this at home,” Mr Leawere said.

“The newly-introduced paid paternity leave of five days will be a new system which must be spelt out clearly and as well as the criteria to be used.

“Question is what happens if these days are exhausted and surely with shipping and transportation problems, and teachers facing complications in childbirth, will their pays be docked?

“What if female teachers go on their sixth or seventh or eighth issues and their husbands have exhausted their paid leave entitlements? The new introduction to these different categories of paid leave is good but my only concern is, if these days are exhausted and then what?” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the fact was that teacher salaries were up an average of 12 per cent and salaries for school administrator positions were up an average of 28 per cent.

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