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Nov 7, 2022

Teachers and MoECST at Odds Over School Reopening

The Belize National Teachers Union is up in arms tonight after the Ministry of Education announced on Sunday that classes within the Belize District will resume on November seventh. According to the President of B.N.T.U., Elena Smith, a meeting was held between union members and the Minister of Education last week Thursday, where it was agreed that schools would reopen on the fourteenth of November. Now, the Ministry of Education has issued a list of schools approved for delayed reopening. Those schools on that list have been given one to seven days to prepare their classrooms for the return of students. The difference of opinions triggered three press releases to be issued on Sunday, two from the Ministry of Education and one from the union. In its release, the union announced a November fourteenth reopening. In the Ministry of Education’s amended release, following BNTU’s statement, they issued a strongly worded note reminding readers that “the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology is the only legal authority that can cancel and suspend classes”.  We spoke with President Smith today at the union’s headquarters in Belize City about the situation.


Elena Smith

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

“We met with the minister on Saturday. We requested a meeting with the minister. We wanted to discuss with him and get some agreements in terms of what our teachers in the Belize District were sharing with us and what their concerns and needs. So, we had that meeting. In that meeting it was agreed that due to the issues our teachers are facing, and students, and even parents who have to deal with their issues regards to hurricane that it would have been best, the fourteenth would have been the back to school. But, during the week of seventh to eleventh our teachers would be reporting to school, preparing classrooms, because some of them would have had to get things out from preparing for hurricane shelters, fix back everything up, help where they could help so that everybody could be ready for the fourteenth. That is was the agreement we had. We also agreed that this week would not be a holiday and teachers had to be told that so they knew they couldn’t stay home or go across the border or do whatever they want, but they had to report to school and do the preparations. So, we left the meeting with those agreements and we went and gave council that report only to find out that when the memo came out the memo said on the seventh as normal, but that wasn’t the decision we made in the meeting. We said the fourteenth due to all the situations happening on the ground right now. You have to consider the fact that while the school might be ready, the school didn’t suffer damage, are those teachers ready, are the children ready? So, it is not just to look at the school building to say that the building is impacted. Who did the assessments, because we visited schools and they are saying they haven’t seen anybody come in the schools to do any assessment. Now schools like Double Head, the school in Double Head, Belize Rural Primary, they were given three days. They lost their entire roof. The entire roof is gone. How can they be prepared to receive children in three days? Now we are being told they will house them in the community center. And the center is in a similar position to the school, except it has a rood.”

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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