Schools Re-Open for Real; Teachers Will Say How They Want to Make Up Classes
“Free paper bun” for thousands of students countrywide on this Monday, after schools formally re-opened following a three-week holiday break. The Ministry of Education, with support from managers of schools, had tried to re-open them on January third with limited success. It was an attempt to make up four of six days agreed as having been lost from the eleven days that teachers were out of school on strike in October. Now, both sides are going back to the drawing board. Aaron Humes toured the Old Capital today visiting schools and has the following report.
After a limited effort by the Ministry of Education and school managers to enforce an agreement that schools should be re-opened on Tuesday, January third, which was largely ignored by both teachers and students, classes resumed on this Monday with nary a hiccup. All Saints Primary School on Dunn Street had all of its enrolment. So did St. Luke’s Methodist and St Martin de Porres Roman Catholic Primary on Mahogany and Partridge Streets respectively. Managements at both All Saints and St. Martin’s were in meetings and not available to speak.
Principal of St. John Vianney R.C., Felix Sutherland, declined our request for an interview on the basis that parents no doubt have teacher fatigue after months of arguments between the Belize National Teachers’ Union (B.N.T.U.) and the Ministry of Education. Of course, whether they supported the teachers’ stance or not, quite a few parents kept students out of classes last week, having already set up plans for their Christmas vacation and not reckoning with the Ministry’s attempts to make up class time lost to October’s industrial action.
The Union contends that the Ministry and school managers determined that classes should resume earlier than scheduled without consulting teachers or their union, the B.N.T.U. Representatives of the Ministry have also declined comment as they deliberate on their next steps. As for the Union, Belize City branch president Kathleen Flowers told us she has not been contacted with any issues regarding re-opening of schools today. In regard to the matter of making up class time, the Union’s membership is presently being polled and a report should be ready in a matter of days.
The Union also awaits the start of mediation enforced by the Supreme Court. The Union had obtained an injunction in December that stopped the Ministry from withholding partial salaries as a result of the industrial action and put the dispute in the hands of a Court-appointed mediator. The Supreme Court will call both sides back to court in February for an update on the mediation. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
During an appearance last week on Open Your Eyes, B.N.T.U. national vice-president Adelaida Guerra noted that when the mediation process begins she hopes that the make-up time would be raised, because the Union has long stated that its teachers are ready and willing to make up the time – but insisted as well that it is school managers who must consult with them, not the Ministry. Meanwhile, B.N.T.U. president Luke Palacio warned that it does no one any good to be petty over the issue, noting that if teachers withdrew their financial contributions to their institutions, for instance, money would be tighter all around.