PHILIPSBURG – On Friday, February 9th Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Jorien Wuite met with representatives of the General Pension Fund (APS). The meeting was scheduled in follow-up to concerns expressed to the Minister in matters related to the physco-social well-being of teachers after the passing of hurricane Irma in September. Joining the Minister at the meeting was President of the Windward Island Teacher’s Union (WITU) Claire Elshot-Aventurin and cabinet staff along with APS representatives Kendra Arnell, Oscar Williams and Nadya Croes-Van Putten.
Via meetings held within the past few weeks with school managers and teachers alike, it was accessed that matters related to housing remained a worry for a large number of teachers. The majority were concerned with the high cost of rent, others’ problems involved owning their own homes but being uninsured or underinsured. Many of these teachers were unable to qualify for the various social relief programs offered in the weeks and months following the hurricane.
In that light Mrs. Elshot-Aventurin and Minister Wuite met with APS to explore any potential opportunities they may have to offer as teachers being civil servants are automatically clients of APS. During the meeting, APS informed of an affordable housing project that is currently underway specially geared towards civil servants. Realizing that this may be a key opportunity, it was resolved to host a special information session just for teachers with APS representatives to further inform and see if they would qualify for such a program. This meeting is currently being planned and teachers will be duly of the details.
Another critical issue notified during the meeting was the possibility of a supplemental pension. This option would be especially important to teachers who may have switched to this profession later in life and as a result not receive their full pension available versus a colleague who may have started in their early twenties. At the same afore-mentioned information session APS will also discuss any available option to teachers who may fall into this category.
The psychological condition of teachers, administrators, and school management in reaction to the devastation of hurricane Irma and the resulting changes in their social environments continues to receive the full attention of Minister Wuite. Consultations have already started and will continue with affected teachers of public schools as the Minister in her capacity as school board is directly responsible for their well-being. Those with critical needs will receive priority in conjunction with the organization of workshops specifically geared towards improving the teacher’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.