National Assembly | 30 July 2020
Education minister answers members’ questions
The minister responsible for education and human resource development Jeanne Simeon on Tuesday answered National Assembly members’ questions on issues relating to education.
Recruitment of foreign teachers
The MNA for Anse Royale,Sylvanne Lemiel, wanted to know more on the recruitment process of foreign teachers more specifically those from Zambia, their performance and action the ministry will take against those who are not performing at the expected level.
Minister Simeon said for many years now the ministry of education has been relying on the help of foreign teachers to cater for teacher shortages in its schools.
She said this has been done through different arrangements such as bilateral cooperation through recruitment agencies as well as through direct recruitment carried out by the ministry of education.
“Recently the teacher shortage situation in our schools has aggravated for different reasons and the ministry has found it necessary to recruit teachers for the primary level which has not been the case before,” Minister Simeon pointed out.
Based on March 2020 statistics, there are currently a total of 286 foreign teachers in the education system serving both primary and secondary schools which represents 19.3% of the teacher population.
With regards to foreign teachers at the primary level there are 31 Zambians, two Kenyans and three Mauritians.
Minister Simeon said based on the need at primary level, the ministry sought government approval to recruit teachers from abroad after numerous unsuccessful attempts to recruit locally.
“Our first attempt was to recruit from Mauritius in the region based on the fact that we have experience after recruiting from our neighbour in the past and our language and culture have numerous similarities,” Minister Simeon remarked.
She said the ministry had received the go ahead to recruit 32 primary school teachers for a minimum two-year contract. Forty candidates were interviewed from which 18 were selected based on set criteria. From the 18 only six accepted the letter of offer and they started work in May 2017.
Minister Simeon said as they could not recruit the number of teachers required from the region they were obliged to explore possibilities from other countries including Zambia taking into account our experience in recruiting for secondary level. The recruitment was carried out in collaboration with the department of foreign affairs through an agreement signed on August 3, 2019 between the ministry of education and human resource development and the ministry of education as well as the commission of tertiary education of Zambia.
Twenty-nine teachers were recruited under the agreement in May 2019 and they started work on September 1, 2019 under a two-year contract and they were placed as follows: two at Baie Lazare, two at Anse Royale, two at Au Cap, three at Plaisance, two at Anse Aux Pins, two at Mont Fleuri, three at Ile Perseverance, two at Beau Vallon, three at Anse Boileau, two at Bel Eau, one at Baie Ste Anne Praslin, two at Grand Anse Mahé, one at La Misère, one at Pointe Larue and one at La Rosière.
She noted that in line with the recruitment process, all the Zambian teachers followed a three-day induction programme organised by the ministry of education during which they were initiated in the Seychelles education system, its national curriculum, employment procedures and regulations as well as the Seychellois culture. In addition to that, the management of each of the different schools organised their own respective induction programmes.
Minister Simeon further highlighted that all the 29 Zambian teachers are still in the education system.
With regard to the teachers’ performance, Minister Simeon said before they were monitored, they were placed under the guidance of a mentor who is also the subject coordinator in the different schools. The schools also prepared an induction programme which focused more specifically on curriculum implementation with emphasis on the pedagogical or teaching methods to be applied to boost learning. Classroom observation sessions were also organised and they also received all the key school documents including strategic plan, school behaviour management policy including code of conduct as well as different study programmes to allow them to be well prepared before they started teaching.
Minister Simeon said feedback received from the different schools stated that monitoring was being carried out in a systematic manner and the outcomes discussed with them individually. Assessments and pupils’ lessons were also analysed to determine if they were attaining the necessary competences. Officials from the ministry of education also visited the schools based on reports and feedbacks received. After realising that some of them had difficulty managing their classrooms, the ministry organised a classroom management session in February this year.
Based on reports received by the ministry, Minister Simeon noted that out of the 29 teachers, 23 are performing very well as well as in a satisfactory manner. Six others are encountering difficulties especially in teaching methods and classroom management.
Minister Simeon said in view of the Covid-19 situation, it has not been possible to continue the monitoring in the schools during the first term as they had planned. But nevertheless she pointed out that from the beginning of the second term the schools and the ministry have stepped up monitoring of the foreign teachers in order to give them the necessary support they need to perform better.
She added that reports and recommendations will be submitted at the end of the second term and this will allow the ministry to make a decision.
With regard to those teachers whose performances are not to the expected level, Minister Simeon said in the event that they do not improve the ministry will meet with them to discuss their performance and inform them of actions to be taken as per their contract of employment.
Delay in construction work on new La Rosière school
As construction work on the new school was expected to start in 2009 and should have been completed by now, the MNA for Mont Buxton Gervais Henrie had asked Minister Simeon to detail the challenges which have caused the delay in the start of the project.
Minister Simeon said it was in November 2014 that representatives of the Kuwait Fund came to Seychelles to engage in talks with the ministry of education.
The loan agreement with the Kuwait Fund was signed on November 17, 2014.
The agreement covers the construction of two educational institutions namely La Rosière primary and the Seychelles Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (SIAH).
In March 2015 four members from the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) visited the headquarters of the Kuwaiti Fund in Kuwait City to familiarise themselves with the different divisions of the fund and engaged in face to face discussions as no visits or missions were to be organised from the fund’s side during the implementation of the projects.
The PIU drafted the first request for proposal document which was reviewed by the fund in June 2015 before the start of the process to select a Kuwaiti consultancy firm.
According to Minister Simeon, the request for proposal did not receive any objections from the fund. The final document to allow for the shortlisting of consultancy firms which had shown interest in the projects was submitted to the fund in August 2015.
The selected firms had 50 days to submit their completed documents to the ministry of education but before the deadline they asked for a four-week extension which was granted.
Minister Simeon noted that all the necessary procedures for consultancy services relating to the loan and the project itself were completed by the end of 2015.
January 2016 and September 2017 was the period to complete the selection process of the best proposal.
In order to carry out the La Rosière school project, Minister Simeon said it was important to enlarge part of the St Joseph and part of Hangard streets which were carried out under the supervision of the SLTA in 2017.
In February 2018 the ministry of education received the first concept designs for the two projects to be reviewed by concerned stakeholders. The designs were not accepted by the ministry as they did not conform to the norm of the local environment. More discussions including both the Kuwaiti and local architects and other concerned partners and stakeholders were conducted to find a consensus for review of the designs which were resubmitted to the ministry for approval between March and August 2018 where amendments were carried out.
The final designs were then submitted to the management of the two institutions for their comments as per procedures.
Unfortunately a lot of delays ensued and Minister Simeon detailed all to Assembly members.
A total of 11 contractors – nine local contractors class 1, two foreign contractors who met the required criteria were selected and a pre-bidding meeting was organised for March 26 this year but restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic prevented it from taking place.
The different parties agreed for an extension of 45 days until restrictions were lifted from both Kuwait and Seychelles. But Minister Simeon said through their ongoing communications officials from the fund on Monday this week informed the ministry that the Covid-19 infections in Kuwait were still high and as a result has recommended that the extension for tender review be postponed again to mid September or October.
Minister Simeon stressed that all the delays being experienced during the past six years are not on the Seychelles side but on that of the Kuwait Fund.
For his part Mr Henrie pointed out that parents are frustrated, disappointed and angry faced with the long delay and he wanted to know what has been done to inform them as well as the school’s management and staff of the situation.
With regard to communication Minister Simeon explained that several meetings have been held with all concerned parties to inform them of the status of the project.