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Oct 3, 2016

Orange Walk’s Students Join Their Teachers to Protest

Regional branches of the B.N.T.U. met simultaneously to discuss the way forward which resulted in an endorsement of day-two of strike action. In the north, where the B.N.T.U. is strong and flourishing, students closed the classrooms in support of teachers. News Five’s Duane Moody has the following report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Across Orange Walk Town today, most schools primary and high schools were closed. It’s the result of the ongoing industrial action that has been undertaken by the Belize National Teachers Union as part of its Stand Up for Belize Campaign.

 

Otilio Muñoz

Otilio Muñoz, President, B.N.T.U. Orange Walk

“These students really taught a lesson to this entire country and to the entire teachers who are still in the classrooms right now. Because if these young minds are looking, are focusing on what the issues are that B.N.T.U. is fighting for…if they can realize that, listen to me, what are the others doing. It saddens me when you see some teachers because of intimidation, they are still there…when you know deep in your heart that going into the classroom is messing everything and accepting something that is totally wrong.”

 

A great concern is over the safety and well-being of students – who in the view of many, are most affected by any strike carried out by teachers. But in one particular instance today, the students of Muffles Junior College took their own strike action and refused to enter their classrooms, forcing the institution to close its doors, in solidarity with the teachers.

 

Marco Maas

Marco Maas, 2nd Year Student, Muffles Junior College

“A bunch of students were talking about what was going to happen today, what is going on with the B.N.T.U. and all the things that the B.N.T.U. is asking for the B.N.T.U. to do for them. And we were talking and then we were discussing that being the only tertiary level institution in town, we were basically not doing anything about it. We are students and on the media, we keep on hearing that tertiary level needs to speak up and show that we too are part of this society. Even though our teachers and not part of the union, we believe that they and us, we all get affected by the situations. So we decided to tell the students to go to school, but not enter the classes so that we can show something symbolic that we are in support of the B.N.T.U.  So this morning we went to school, we started taking students out of classes and eventually the teachers caved in and they had to cancel classes.”

 

Saint John’s College Junior College student, Marissa Cervantes, also absented herself from school today and joined in a mini rally held today at the Queen Elizabeth Central Park.

 

Marissa Cervantes

Marissa Cervantes, Student, SJCJC

“I as a concerned student, in full support of my teachers, I spoke to one of the students from MJC, which is a college here in Orange Walk and they said that their classes were canceled this morning. So what we did, we came together as students in the community and we came here with many concerned issues amongst the teachers and we wanted to make a stand in support of our teachers.”

 

But the strike interrupts the regular flow of classes. So is it a sacrifice that students and teachers are willing to make?

 

Marissa Cervantes

“As Belizeans we have many holidays. When it comes to…I hear many students being concerned when it comes to P.S.E. I always remember my teacher telling me the day before P.S.E.; how are you to study something that takes four years of background. I personally do not believe that it would affect us. One day; it takes one day to make a sacrifice.”

 

Marco Maas

“I’ve been told so many times, Marco you are going to lose on your education. But if you see things, people are afraid to do sacrifices to raise the standards in the country. In order for the standards to raise in the country, we must sacrifice something. A day we can make it in half a day as long as we put ourselves to it, we can make it.”

 

Some are of the opinion that the teachers are pushing a political agenda. B.N.T.U. Orange Walk President, Otilio Muñoz, says that he has been targeted as being P.U.P. But he maintains that it is quite the contrary.

 

Otilio Muñoz

“The Belize National Teachers Union organization is non-partisan and I can tell you that I was in 2005 right out there with my placards, joining Honorable Patrick Faber at the same time because I was teaching at Ladyville Evangelical School. I have been teaching fro twenty years so let me explain that in 2005, I was against the People’s United Party government when they were doing all these craziness and stupidness. And we as educators of this country stood against them. And if that made me a U.D.P. then, well if they say I am a P.U.P. because this is a U.D.P. government, I do not care.  But one thing I can tell you; as a unionist, as an activist, we do not have party politics in our agenda.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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