No Vacation Yet But Did Kids Show Up to “Make-Up” School?
Instead of enjoying vacation time going into the Easter holidays, students at most public schools as well as teachers, were present in the classrooms across the country. And that’s how it is going to be for the next two days as agreed upon earlier this year to make-up for lost time during last October teachers’ strike. At private schools where teachers are not part of the Belize National Teachers Union, students were not required to attend. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
As is customary, today would have been the start of a two-week Easter vacation for students—specifically those attending preschool, primary and secondary schools. But for majority of schools across the country, classes continued through for Holy Week. It is a decision made between the Belize National Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education during mediation to make up for time lost during the eleven-day strike by teachers last October. Before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin both parties had agreed to six days of full classes to compensate for strike days.
Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U. [File: February 21st, 2017]
“We have now agreed that we are going to make up those days, as an order of the Court; based on our mediation; that we are going to give back six full days of classes. The first three will be done the first three days of the Easter break and the second three will be done on the first three days of our July vacation period.”
As we checked today in Belize City, some schools were not compliant for several reasons. According to the General Secretary of the B.N.T.U., Keisha Young, its membership was informed to report to their schools in accordance with the order. In the Belize District and the cayes, there are ninety-three public and private schools. While the Anglican Cathedral High School was closed, several others, including Saint John’s Anglican Primary School saw less than half of its student population absent from the classrooms. B.N.T.U. rep and teacher for fifteen years, Keisha Garbutt says that the teachers, however, are in full attendance.
Keisha Garbutt, Standard 3 Teacher, St. John’s Anglican Primary School
“We have one hundred percent staff members at school and we have forty-three boys and forty-five girls present, which gives us a total of eighty-eight students out of the two hundred and fifteen.”
“This is totally unexpected?”
“Yes, we told them last week that they were expected to be here for the three days. But what happen, normally after our sports day, the students are already use to breaking of for the Easter vacation so we think that is one of the reasons why we don’t have a hundred percent attendance today. But hopefully tomorrow maybe the parents would send them out.”
Catholic public schools so far recorded full attendance across the country.
Sister Barbara Flores, General Manager, Catholic Public School
“Our schools are in full swing across the board. Our administrators and teachers are in schools. Our schools are opened, the students are there definitely for the most part; I have not heard anything different. And I am grateful to say that the teachers have been very willing to make up that contact time. We’ve always said that bottom line, this is about our students. Our students did lose time and that time is being made up.”
But do the students stand to lose by not showing up for these additional three days? Even before this makeup time was agreed to, teachers had re-strategized to complete the curriculum.
“For us here at St John’s majority of our staff members were present at school during the strike time and after that the Ministry sent an abridged curriculum, which we followed. And so we believe that we are up to par with teaching because we did that for the six weeks. And then we were here January as a staff too, but little bit of students; a little less than what we have now. And then we are here again for these three days, still trying to push. We have plan as normal for the standard three and standard six classes. We use this time to try and catch up to let them practice for BJAT and the upcoming challenges for P.S.E.”
“Even the people who chose not to go on strike or to come to school in January, which is January third to the sixth after the amended school schedule, they are there. So I am grateful for that for the sake of our children in our catholic schools.”
In respect of the three-day makeup time that is scheduled for July, teachers are not so optimistic that students will report to classrooms. Duane Moody for News Five.