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May 8, 2018

Where Will the Teachers Be on Teachers’ Day?

Teachers Day is quickly approaching; this year, the activities are intended to step up to a national celebration which will bring six thousand teachers from all over the country under one roof.  But tonight, there is uncertainty as to who will be picking up the tab for the massive celebration that can run into a minimum of twenty-five thousand dollars.  The Belize National Teachers Union, for one, says it is not so will the Ministry of Education come up with the money? News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks for answers.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Across the country, educators at all levels of learning will observe Teachers Day on May eighteenth.  The annual festivities follow a three-year cycle which culminates with a national celebration that is organized by the Ministry of Education, in partnership with the schools management and the Belize National Teachers Union.  It is a costly undertaking, one which seems to be avoided by each of the three members.  Prior to the grand opening of the Civic Center, Minister of Education Patrick Faber went on record back in March to inform that teachers from all over will converge on the new facility, a historic first.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education [File: March 19th, 2018]

“There are some events, of course, that the government, the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Culture and other government entities will need to utilize the center for.  One that immediately comes to mind is that we want to have a grand affair, since this year we will celebrate Teachers Day nationally in the month of May.  So we can talk about that right away.  We have about six thousand teachers and they can now be accommodated in one place.  That has never been done before in Belize’s history.”

 

B.N.T.U. President Elena Smith agrees that this year’s commemoration should bring together the entire population of teachers.

 

Elena Smith

Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“This year should be a national celebration, and why I say should is because there is an agreement that we have a three-year cycle for the celebration.  So one year we celebrate at the school level where the staff determines how they celebrate.  The second year we do at the branch level where the branch, the district or the union executive, along with the membership, plan what they would do, where they would go and that kind of thing.  And then the third year of that cycle, we celebrate as national, so everybody would come in to one location.  That is a team of Ministry [of Education], B.N.T.U. and management.  We meet and we plan the activities for the month, including Teachers Day.  So this year should be national and as you rightly said, our teachers would be housed at or hosted at the City Center where they will be having the activities for the day.” 

 

But while the invitation has been offered by government, it comes with a hefty price tag which the union has taken on once since the agreement was struck several years ago.

 

Elena Smith         

“The cost for the celebration, at the national level, should be borne by the parties concerned, and so everybody would normally, or should contribute or is expected to contribute towards the celebration.  We’ve contributed once, some twenty-four thousand dollars towards the celebration.  Now we have to be very clear because the celebration is not only for B.N.T.U. members, it’s for teachers in general.  Our funds come from our members and so our members have made it clear to us that we cannot take their membership dues and spend it on non-members.”

 

At this juncture, not only is the organization of teachers not prepared to foot the bill, the government is also cash-strapped and the school’s management has made it clear that it won’t be co-sponsoring the event.  So how will the minister’s lofty expectations be fulfilled?

 

Elena Smith

“B.N.T.U. is unable to contribute towards that celebration this year and so we would not be… Managements have said that they cannot contribute either.  I don’t know why but they cannot contribute.  They were asked to contribute whatever they can, I’m not sure if they will.  We were not informed of that, we were to get a budget for our meeting on Saturday, we have not received that budget as yet, but from our part, as I said, we are unable to do so because we have spent a lot of money over the past year.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Is the onus now being placed on the ministry to see things through or is this is a calling off of that particular activity for Teachers Day?”

 

Elena Smith

“I’m not sure what the ministry will do.  There was a point in time where… How long has this government been in place?  So we should have had three national celebrations within the time span of their being in government.  If my memory serves me right we’ve only had one.  That one was in Belmopan.  The second one that we were supposed to have, again there were issues with finances and then the ministry informed us that it would not be celebrated at a national level anymore and they said let us do it at the school level.”

 

It is unclear what decision will be taken in respect of this year’s celebration which would see the bussing in of almost six thousand teachers into Belize City.  News Five attempted to reach Deputy Prime Minister Faber for comment but we’ve received no response thus far. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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