GOVERNMENT is working to provide 20 relief teachers to relieve pregnant mothers at the Ministry of Education when they take their maternity leave.
The Honourable Minister of Education, Women Affairs and Culture (MEWAC), revealed this in response to a call from primary school teachers in Ha’apai to reduce the maternity leave period from three months to one month.
In presenting Ha’apai 12 Constituency Parliamentary Visit Report, Mo’ale Finau said this was raised when he met with the Ministry of Education in Pangai on July 8th 2011.
“…These committed and hard working female teachers of Ha’apai are recommending a drop from a three months period of maternity leave to one so they could return quickly back to work,” said Finau.
Dr. ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki responded that efforts have been made to negotiate with the Public Service Commission (PSC) in reviewing the maternity leave policy because this is a problem.
“When up to five or more female teachers take maternity leave at a school, this causes a major problem to the ministry, because 70 percent of the ministry’s staff are females” said Dr. Taufe’ulungaki.
Although it’s a major problem at work, Dr. Taufe’ulungaki pointed out “it is a milestone for Tonga to let female teachers take three months maternity leave to care for their baby until they are matured enough before returning to work.”
Mo’ale Finau said he put forward the motion as this has never been raised by any other constituency.
Parliament was also told that teachers also spent money from their own pocket to travel and get their salary. He said when a teacher in Fotuha’a travels to Ha’afeva to get his salary a boat must be hired which cost up to TOP$70 for a trip.
Mo’ale maintains “if travel allowance is taken from a teacher’s pay then there won’t be enough left from his salary.”
For this reason, Ha’apai 12 MP said in this case the Education Ministry should take note of this.
Dr. ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki said it’s true what has been raised regarding teacher’s travel allowance but the new policy they are now using, all civil servants salaries are deposited into their bank accounts.
“From there, they can go and get their pay from the bank,” said the Hon. Minister.
Dr. Taufe’ulungaki said request was made to the Treasury for Pay Clerks to handle tutor’s pay in the outer islands and in remote areas rather than teacher’s waisting time travelling to and fro to get their pay.
According to Mo’ale, staff of the Education Ministry in Ha’apai also asked if they could use the Pako vessel for transportation. In respond to this, Dr. Taufe’ulungaki said request was made to Japan and they have approved for the construction of a new vessel to replace Pako.
“The new vessel is expected to arrive before the beginning of next year to service the Ha’apai’s, and Ha’apai Development Committee has also kind enough to fix the old Pako, to help also in servicing the island groups,” said the MEMAC minister.
The House was also informed that teachers at Lifuka are not provided with location allowance. Hence, Mo’ale said this is not fair as teachers in the other islands have location allowance.
With regards to the annual leave, Finau said staff of the Ministry of Education preferred the old policy where civil servants work for three consecutive years before they go on their annual leave for three months.