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Nov 10, 2017

Teachers’ Union and President Have Lost Their Way

Patrick Faber

One week ago, Minister of Education Patrick Faber called out the Belize National Teachers’ Union. During an interview last Thursday, Faber said the leadership of the union is neglecting its duty to teachers and what ought to be its priorities. He cited the removal of B.N.T.U. president Elena Smith from the Teaching Services Commission, based on an arcane rule prohibiting parliamentarians from being members. While Smith said that removal was an oversight which has been corrected, she in turn said that if Faber wanted a fight with the union that nearly brought the Government to its knees last year, he could have one; but he would not win. The Minister issued a response today sticking to his guns and contending that the union has lost its way.

 

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

“It is my business to deal with anything that affects education in this country. It is my view that the B.N.T.U. has lost its way when it comes to what they ought to be doing, in terms of looking out for the best interests of teachers, especially as it relates to their professional services. Just a simple question: when last has the B.N.T.U. offered some kind of professional development opportunity for their membership? My simple point is that before the B.N.T.U. interferes with the larger national issues – which is fine – their first call ought to be to look after the services of teachers. The point I was making about the Teaching Services Commission is that that is the legal entity now that looks after all the services of teachers in this country – the firing, the hiring, the disciplining, all of those issues. It would appear to me that the president of the Union, who has traditionally sat on the Teaching Services Commission, would see that as one of the first responsibilities of the Union. Being a Senator and being in the National Assembly is not a primary role of the B.N.T.U.; in fact, any member of the Trade Union Congress, the P.S.U., any of the energy workers’ union, the utility unions could have become that Senator. So I would have imagined that the primary call by President Elena [Smith] would have been to sit on the Teaching Services Commission; she has decided to do something else. It’s not that I want to get into B.N.T.U. affairs. But when it is that it is clear that they are engaging in things other than what they ought to be primarily focused on which affects all of us in the education sector, pardon me for speaking out, but I will do, because I think that is my place.”

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