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Oct 3, 2016

City’s Schools Are Ghost Towns on First Day of Strike

As we said, a majority of Belize’s teachers were out of school today, in support of the strike by their union. It is a result of the Belize National Teachers’ Union’s efforts to spur up discussion on the current state of affairs in the nation, and getting the attention of the Government on current critical issues of good governance. The Union proposed eight matters of urgent attention to the Government a few weeks ago, but following a meeting on September twenty-second in Belize City, the Union wrote of its dissatisfaction and issued notice of strike action. That action appears to have borne much fruit, as correspondent Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

If not for the obvious – closed gates, shuttered doors and windows, police standing guard – this would be a normal Monday by any standard at our nation’s schools.  But here in the Old Capital, as elsewhere, the centers of our nation’s education were mostly silent today.  Belize National Teachers’ Union president Luke Palacio explained why.

 

Luke Palacio

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.

“We are told that the support is overwhelming, and it is a manifestation that the B.N.TU as a Union makes sure that its members call is answered. The issues we continue to stand up for it’s for all Belizeans, and our teachers as nation-builders are manifesting that that is who and what they are.”

 

Most schools had barely any students on campus; some had none at all. One of the few exceptions was All Saints Anglican Primary School on Dunn Street, where about eighty-two of the six hundred and eleven strong upper division enrolment made it to school today, where a handful of teachers were there to lead classes. Principal Tanisha Ross told us that the doors remain open, although as of when we visited, some parents had already called to say they wanted to come for their children. Palacio said he was appreciative that so many civil organizations had rallied to their side.

 

Luke Palacio

“We had met with some of these stakeholders at a meeting on Monday night last, to give them our side of the story, because they had only heard what the Prime Minister said in his video. So when they went back to their membership their membership decided what course of action they will take and what kind support they will pledge to the Union and we are very grateful for that. Because this is not only a B.N.T.U. fight, like we have been saying over and over; except that the B.N.T.U., being the type of organization that it is and because of what our Constitution mandates, decided that national issues like this, need some attention; and again, most organizations, most citizens, agree with the position we are taking in terms of trying to get these national issues resolved.”

 

Palacio confirmed reports that some teachers were paid to go to school to spite the Union, in a further attempt at union-busting, and suggested they could take the money and still stay home. But to parents who feared lack of security with regular teachers out of school, Palacio reiterated that they have not been irresponsible in their actions.

 

Luke Palacio

“I don’t know that that would be a criticism that is negative. The bottom-line is the rules are clear; the Education Rules make it clear that when there is a strike, that the principals of the institution, the managing authorities of the institution – not the Ministry, like what the Minister and his minions are saying, that it is their duty to keep the schools open – the rules are clear, that if the managing authorities believe that there are not sufficient teachers in the institution and the safety of the kids is of concern, that they should call the parents and ask them, advise them to come for their kids. We are saying to the parents, we have said it to the country; our teachers will not be at school today – we are asking you to keep your children at home if you believe they will not be safe, and that is in order; that is keeping with the rules.”

 

So what happens next? The strike may continue, but that’s up to the Government, says Palacio:

 

Luke Palacio

“The doors remain open when they call.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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