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Oct 12, 2018

B.N.T.U. Says M.O.E. has Disrespected the Teachers!

The Belize National Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education are at a crossroads once again. Their latest disagreement involves the re-categorization of hardship allowances and time-off to collect salary. When the union called a press conference two weeks ago, its executive had received a letter from the ministry for further discussions on the matter. According to that letter, the deadline for feedback is on October fifteenth and then the finalized list would be implemented by the end of the month. Well, today the B.N.T.U. says there have been no discussions because the ministry has not responded and the union feels disrespected. .  Today, President Elena Smith said they will not accept this kind of behavior from the ministry. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Belize National Teachers Union feels that the Ministry of Education has disrespected its membership. In a heavily worded press release issued today, the B.N.T.U. says the disrespect will not be tolerated. And it is all because the Ministry of Education was to meet with the Union over the past two weeks to discuss the re-categorization of teachers’ hardship allowance and time off to collect salary, but President Elena Smith says that despite their attempts to reach out, the Ministry has not responded.

 

Elena Smith

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

“As you might be aware there are so many schools in the country, rural schools that we have to address and we have to justify why we believe that those schools should remain where they are. And so that cannot be done via email or written communication. So, we felt that we had to discuss the matter with them face to face so that we would have enough time to share with them our concerns and our reasons for our position. However, to date, we have not gotten any response to say that they are willing to meet and we will meet on this date. So, we are still waiting. We have to agree on whether the categories need to change. We have to agree on what the criteria are used to determine which schools belong in which category and then we have to look on the reality of the time that they want to give to teachers for the half day for pay, or whether it is a half day or whole day. So, those are the issues that we would have to discuss with the Ministry and so there is no one specific response to say this is our position why we want it to remain. There are different positions based on area where these schools are located.”

 

In the Toledo District, for example, the Ministry of Education has added seven new schools to the hardship list, including Graham Creek Government School. One school was upgraded and fourteen downgraded – meaning those teachers will no longer receive two hundred dollars but will now get one hundred dollars, while one school has been removed from the list and will no longer receive hardship allowance. Many teachers who live in Punta Gorda get up early in the mornings to take the bus to schools in remote villages. Teachers say the small hardship allowance, while appreciated, doesn’t do much for the long journey and bad road conditions they must endure.

 

Eugene Benguche

Eugene Benguche, Corazon Creek Primary School

“The journey is a rough journey, miss. We leave here at six o’clock and we come back at six o’clock. Sometimes we even come back after six because the road is a very terrible condition.   Category one used to get two hundred dollars and category is getting one hundred dollars. I believe that, man, leaving here so early and then we have problems on the bus because there are some teachers who feel like the bus is for them and so we believe that is unfair for the government to only give us one hundred dollars and to categorize these schools the way they want.”

 

Arsenio Rash, Teacher, Crique Sarco RC School

“I am coming from San Pedro Colombia and I travel for two hours from point A to point B to to my school.”

 

Arsenio Rash

Andrea Polanco

“Talk to me about driving your motorcycle on the road to get to your school; what are some of the difficulties you face or experience?”

 

Arsenio Rash

“Well, the hardship we face as teachers is the road conditions. It is very muddy and slippery and accidents can happen. At one point when I came here I nearly drop and could have injured myself and would have been unable to teach the children there. That is the hardship I face. Sometimes too the rain condition it is flooded and we have to push our motorcycles to get to our job site.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And there is no bus that takes you guys to the back here?”

 

Arsenio Rash

“No. There is absolutely no bus.”

 

And now the B.N.T.U. says the lack of communication and disrespect being meted out by the Ministry will not be tolerated. And while they have exhausted press conferences and press releases – is the next step a strike? President Elena Smith says the membership will decide.

 

Elena Smith

“When it comes to them showing us respect – it has been happening too often now and there has to be a point in time when enough is enough.”

 

Reporter

“Are we looking at industrial action again?”

 

Elena Smith

“Well, October seems to be a month that they love you know and we love it, too. But, whatever happens during this month happens. We wrote; we have now issued another press release on the same matter. We sent queries to see who would respond to us. I am sure that our members would agree when we say press release and emails are not working. Now it is time to move beyond that.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Possibly another strike?”

 

Elena Smith

“I am not going to say another strike. I am going to say it is time to move beyond press releases and emails.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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