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Oct 11, 2016

Cayo teachers steadfast as strike continues

As the strike continues into its seventh day; across the country schools remained closed. In the west this morning teachers met for an update on the evolving situation. Their mantra “We will not be moved” remains steadfast. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, reporting

Teachers from across Cayo District assembled this morning in San Ignacio Town where they were apprised of the latest developments in the ongoing strike.  Today marks the sixth day since educators countrywide, a majority of them at the primary school level, walked out of their classrooms in protest.  At the branch level, President Manuel Medina informed the small gathering that Prime Minister Barrow has requested that BNTU returns to the negotiating table along with its umbrella organization, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize.

 

Manuel Medina, BNTU President, San Ignacio Branch

Manuel Medina

“At this point we call this meeting so that we can keep ourselves active and we are sharing some more information, updates and making certain clarification because as we understand there are mixed messages going around. So we want to make sure that our teachers get the latest so that they are not confused as to what is happening. We are getting ourselves organized to keep on with the strike with different activities. Right now the latest is that we are asking the PM for a meeting, officially I learned that he has written to us because first it was just on a and ad but we wants us to join with N.T.U.C.B. and from there have a meeting but we are saying now and this morning I heard the president of N.T.U.C.B. saying that they will not go into that because it is the union who call the Prime Minister for a meeting so that is where they want to go at this point.”

 

Alejandro Najarro, a teacher at Santa Elena Primary School, is among those who are rather candid about their disdain for what’s presently taking place in government.  He believes that teachers are justified in their actions to stay away from the classroom until their demands have been satisfactorily met.

 

Alejandro Navarro

Alejandro Navarro, Teacher, Santa Elena Primary School

“As a teacher I believe that I have to stand up for this country, we have seen the efforts of the government to divide the unions, we have seen government intimidating a lot of their workers, we have seen the government also confusing the populace of this nation. In regards to their agenda, we have seen the rampant corruption and we have decided it is enough, we have had enough and we have to stand up. If nobody else will, we will, we will stand up. I know that we have a lot of supporters, a lot of the parents are with us, a lot of the workers are with us but for some reason or the other they may not be able to expose themselves. We are not longer a free nation it seems and to a large extent I understand those who can’t do it. But us as teachers we are taking a stand sacrificing family our financial commitments, our friendships, even our views, our religion, sacrificing everything. But we are here for the long haul.”

 

That being said, should teachers be held responsible for depriving students of valuable time, especially since the academic calendar began a little over four weeks ago?

 

Alejandro Navarro“Absolutely not sir cause I strongly believe that this in itself is one of the best lessons that we can give our children. They cannot take any type of wrong doing from the government and just leave it as it is, we are telling them that sometimes we have to leave things one side and we have to do what we have to do and we have to fight for our nation. This nation is a good nation and we cannot let it go the direction that other nations have taken. And when it comes to the curriculum, we have strategies to deal with whatever topics we are going to find ways and means as to how we will catch up. But as far as I am concerned the best lesson is this one here.”

 

The rolling industrial action is reminiscent of similar uprisings in 2005.  This time however, the former opposition finds itself in the hot seat; the subject of much criticism from the teachers it once supported through civil disobedience.

 

Isani Cayetano

“Now it is interesting that you would mention the 2005 uprising. History has a way of repeating itself in a sense. Do you believe that a majority of the teachers here understand fully what these issues are, do you believe that by extension their families and their children also understand in so far where the government stand and where the union stands and is at the moment.”

 

Manuel Medina

“Definitely they do understand and that is why they are here with us, we are going to keep up this fight and you know teachers have a lot of families and they know what teachers go through. The teachers give themselves to the students sometimes more than what parents would do because children come to school without material, hungry and it is the teacher who provide for them. We love our children and that is why we are standing up for them because at this point they are voiceless, the children cannot stand up and we even have the mass of the population, the poor one who doesn’t have a voice, so somebody has to stand up for the whole population of the country.”

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

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