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Storm stops teacher's salaries

Education ministry blames post-Sandy power outage

BY DENISE DENNIS Sunday Observer reporter dennisd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 28, 2012    

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TEACHERS across the island are spending this weekend without having received their salaries which are normally paid on the 25th of each month.

The teachers were forced to swallow their disappointment on Friday when they realised that they still had not received their monthly salaries as scheduled.

Schools were ordered reopened on Friday, with the exception of those in the eastern parishes — St Mary, Kingst on and St Andrew , Portland and St Thomas — following the passage of Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday. However, several teachers returned to school to the news that paycheques from the Ministry of Education had not yet arrived.

Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites told the Jamaica Observer Friday that the ministry was unable to produce the electronically generated cheques due to an absence of electricity at their Kingston-based headquarters.

"Due to the absence of the electricity and the difficulties with the hurricane this week, the system could not produce them at the usual time," Thwaites said. He said electricity was not returned to their offices until Friday afternoon. He said teachers from all schools were affected.

On Friday morning, the Jamaica Public Service reported that about 40 per cent of its customers were still without electricity due to damaged power lines and utility poles. By Friday evening, the light and power company was reporting it had restored electricity to 70 per cent of its customers. However, this was too late to ensure the teachers got their pay.

Thwaites said the ministry regretted disappointing the teachers but hoped that they would be understanding of the challenges faced.

"We regret it and think the teachers should understand the difficult circumstances," he said.

Thwaites said he was glad to report that all cheques were sent out to the schools and teachers' bank accounts updated by Friday evening.

"All accounts where payments are made by direct bank transfers have been made and confirmed by these banks, and where cheques are issued, I do know that every region was sent in today (Friday) to collect the cheques that were prepared," he said.

On Wednesday, Hurricane Sandy passed over Jamaica damaging utility poles, wrecking homes and buildings and uprooting trees. Eighty per cent of government shelters were housed in schools. All schools were ordered closed for Wednesday and Thursday.

The minister has urged principals of schools not yet reopened to "get their schools in shape" so that they can do so in the shortest possible time. Preliminary reports from across the island reveal that while the damage to schools in some areas was significant, it was not devastating.

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