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Nov 23, 2018

Teachers Demonstrate in Benque; Matter Resolved

There is good news for forty plus teachers at Roman Catholic primary schools in the west. Following a meeting around two p.m., between management, the Teaching Services Commission and the Ministry of Education, classes are to resume as per normal on Monday. Since Wednesday, we’ve reported that the teachers at the Mount Carmel RC showed up to school, but not classes following a letter sent from the Teaching Services Commission indicating that a career teacher of twenty-nine years was to be removed from the classroom. That, as well as the non-payment of salaries to a number of teachers triggered the sit out. The school enjoys the full support of parents and late this afternoon, following a demonstration through the streets of Benque earlier today; all parties reached an agreement, bringing an end to the week-long protest. News Five’s Duane was in the west this morning and reports on the demonstration.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Across the country, there were no classes today in celebration of Children’s Day. Most students and teachers were at home; that is except for the teachers from Mount Carmel RC Primary School in Benque Viejo Del Carmen, La Inmaculada RC School in Arenal and Holy Cross RC School in Calla Creek. Those teachers converged at the Mount Carmel school compound where a brief rally was held before the teachers took the streets.

As early as eight a.m. this morning over sixty teachers gathered to express their discontent with issues surrounding the schools. It started from Wednesday when the teaching staff at Mount Carmel, with support from parents, executed a sit out; they have refused to go back to the classrooms until their issues are resolved. Three substitute teachers not being paid and a teacher being removed from the classroom were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Today, we found out that there are in fact seventeen issues, from four Roman Catholic schools the area, which have not been dealt with.


Deacon Cal

Deacon Cal, Local Manager, Benque Catholic Schools

“I have sent an eighty-four-page document to just about everybody I can think of that might be involved in decision-making and that document says if you want to answer them one at a time—seventeen incidents. If not, let’s hope and pray you can talk to someone about those seventeen incidents.”


According to Cal, the demonstration is the community’s anger against what is being done to the teachers. It seems that the teachers do not have the support from the senior management of the church/state school. The principal and the local manager, however, are in full support of the teachers.


Deacon Cal

“We had basically asked for a meeting on today Friday. Well we didn’t ask. When it was known that teachers were upset and planning a demonstration, I was invited to meet with Ministry of Education and other officials so when Tuesday afternoon, I tried to stop the demonstration. I spoke to the parents the teachers, but the parents were so upset, they yelled me down. They said no way; we are going through with it. Once they made that decision it was stopping them.”


Even as the demonstration continued today, it is known that the executive of the Belize National Teachers Union has gotten involved and has also written to the Chief Education Officer for her intervention.


Elena Smith

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U. [File: November 22nd, 2018]

“We have received from the management in Benque the concerns that they have regarding those teachers that they are out demonstrating on their behalf. We have sent those to Doctor Carol Babb so that she could look at the concerns that were raised and she could address them. So she has promised us that she will be looking into them. As a matter of fact, she spoke to Deacon Cal and she said that the ministry will be looking into the matter and trying to get it resolved. So from our end, we are working with the ministry to see how best we can resolve the matters. These are issues that our teachers complain about very often and it is not just the Benque branch or in that area, but teachers countrywide.


While the teachers remain resolute, the ultimate concern is the education of the nine hundred and thirty-seven students since they have missed almost a week of classes with exams scheduled to begin next week.


Melvin Manzanero

Melvin Manzanero, Principal, Mount Carmel RC Primary School

“We met yesterday with the teachers and administrators and we already made plans in terms of the students not getting affected when it comes to exam.”


The B.N.T.U. meets with the teachers on Monday. Duane Moody for News Five.

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