Education Minister Anthony Garcia is reminding teachers of Government primary and secondary schools that it is illegal to charge fees for private lessons on the school compound.

Garcia raised the issue on Tuesday after meeting with officials of the Tranquillity Government Primary School in Port of Spain, following revelation of an audio recording of a teacher of the school verbally abusing her students.

He said among the disturbing reports coming out of the school was a report that some teachers were having private lessons on the school compound, which was contrary to the Education Act.

"The Education Act says that no teacher must charge for any service that he or she is giving to our students,” Garcia told reporters on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Express further on the matter last night he warned that action will be taken against teachers who contravene the law.

According to Section 22 of the Education Act:

“Except with the written permission of the Minister, a Principal or Board of Management may not impose a charge of any kind whatsoever on pupils in a public school—

(a) in return for any service provided by the school or by the Principal, Board or any teacher

(b) as a contribution in respect of any activities normally undertaken as part of the curriculum of the school.

Private lessons allowed in denominational schools

Under the Education Act, denominational schools are considered public schools because they receive financial assistance from the Government.

However, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai explained that denominational boards have authority to give permission to or rent their schools to teachers for private lessons.

“Because really and truly the school premises is being rented to the Government during the school hours and it remains the property of the denomination board. So after 3 p.m. or before school hours the board can do what they see fit for the school. But some teachers have approached denominational boards and have received permission to conduct certain activities in schools, whether it’s lessons or summer camps,” he stated.

Doodhai to teachers: follow the rules

Like Garcia, Doodhai urged teachers of Government schools to adhere to the rules stipulated in the Education Act.

“The Ministry would have also reinforced the advice in circulars to schools, pointing out that fees are not to be charged. If that is happening, it should not be happening. With respect to the curriculum, it should be covered under normal circumstances during school hours. In some instances, teachers give lessons, many of them out of the school compound,” he said.

“If there are laws and regulations with respect to charging a fee in schools then those law, policies and regulations have to be adhered to. They cannot be violated because if a teacher violates that then they may be opening up themselves to disciplinary action. So the solution to that is if a teacher feels the need to give lessons then they should give it at a location away from the school,” he added.

Doodhai acknowledged that there are many teachers who offer lessons on the school compound at no charge, before and after school hours.