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Sep 5, 2008

M.O.E. reports progress in education controversies

Story PictureLast Tuesday the Belize National Teachers Union was seeing red over the transfers of teachers, primarily in the Orange Walk District, and the re-nomination of Government Secondary school boards. Since then, the B.N.T.U. has been meeting with its members and Ministry of Education officials to get the matter cleared up… and today in Belize City Minister of Education Patrick Faber held a press conference to update the public on what progress has been made.

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
“We met with the Union and I gave my commitment that the Ministry of Education would review genuine cases brought forward and if found to be outside of policy, that they would be rectified. To date, the Belize National Teachers Union has presented several cases, perhaps seven or so cases, that we are currently reviewing and the Ministry of Education has been working closely with the unions and we hope to have most of these resolved very shortly. We have already resolved some of these cases, we’re working to resolve the others and Mr. President, you have my commitment that we will resolve these cases. With respect to the re-nomination of government secondary school boards, the government of Belize, after seeking the advice of its legal advisors, decided that consequent on the election of a new government, that the Ministry of Education would invite fresh nominations for the appointment of Boards.”

Another controversial issue in education was the removal of two Vice Principals at the Toledo Community College and the replacement of the Principal. Today Faber also offered an explanation as to how that matter was dealt with.

Patrick Faber
“At no time did we support or sanction the removal of these vice principals. Let me also make it very clear that as soon as we learnt that this was being done we informed the Board of Management and the principal and that the vice principals—in our view—were not to be removed without due case. We have since sent them a letter to this effect and instructed them to immediately reinstate without prejudice to their terms and conditions of service. As it relates to the principal of that institution, what has been in the media is that the ministry did reverse and that is not altogether correct. There was a panel that interviewed two candidates: one that was to my understanding a veterinarian and one that had a Masters degree in secondary education. Advice was sought from the ministry as to whether or not we would allow a principal that did not have pedagogical training to take office and we said, “no.” And we stand firm by that commitment because it is our intention to have trained teachers—you know that that is one of the major pushes of this new administration, to get our teachers trained, so if we condone a principal not having the training, we believe it would be counter to where we’re going. And so, yes, the ministry did recommend that that person not be given the position.”

“You see some people say it’s politics, but there was politics that created unfair situations and biases well before this government came into office and should we now just close out eyes to those things that occurred even though we know that it was improper? Principals who are appointed with an Associate’s degree for instance to run a high school? Principals who were clearly not qualified? Principals, who after being appointed were fired and terminated in the middle of their term in office to bring in someone else because you are from my political party?”

Jaime Panti, President, B.N.T.U.
“We don’t want to get the notion that if there is a policy in place of hiring a principal, if the requirement is a Masters degree, then at all times we must abide by it because it’s a policy, we can’t break it. However, we also understand that it’s not only a Master’s degree that should qualify you as a principal, you can have a Master’s degree and it doesn’t necessarily make you a good principal. There are other characteristics that you have to look at and there are the things that we are looking at because you have to have leadership qualities, your character, how you have that interpersonal relationships with the staff and the people, those are the things that we need to consider. So I don’t want to give the impression like we don’t know what we are saying, so that is the position of the union.”

During the conference Faber spoke of several initiatives which his Ministry is trying to develop. These include an Educational Development Trust Fund, advocating for more teacher training, and a Senior Management Team comprising Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry, David Leacock; Chief Education Officer, Christopher Aird; and former General Manager of Anglican Schools, Carol Babb who recently joined Allan Genitty as a Deputy Chief Education Officer. The team will work with the minister on the new initiatives.

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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