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By Svetlana Marshall
The Opposition said it stands resolutely with the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), which will today (Wednesday, September 8, 2021) spearhead a national protest in objection to the COVID-19 protocols, but the Education Ministry, in dubbing the move “unconscionable and uncaring” warned that protesting teachers will not be paid.
The protest dubbed “Boots on de ground,” is intended to commence at 10:00hrs on Wednesday, in front of the Ministry of Education’s Lot 21 Brickdam Office. The new COVID-19 Emergency Measures require all citizens including teachers to show proof of vaccination against the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in an effort to gain access to public buildings including schools. In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccination card, persons are required to provide a negative PCR Test from a recognized health institution.
In a statement, the Office of the Leader of the Opposition said it has taken note of the decision of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) to engage in industrial action to resist the unreasonable, unconscionable and inhumane impositions of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government.
“The Opposition Coalition stands in resolute solidarity with the nation’s precious and indispensable teachers. Our teachers nurture our nation’s youth – the future generations. Teachers mould the leaders and citizens of tomorrow. We demand that our teachers be treated with respect and dignity by the PPP regime,” the Coalition Opposition said.
It said GTU’s decision arose as a result of the predictable chaos and confusion which ensued after the forced and imprudent re-opening of schools for face-to-face learning on Monday.
“This decision exposes our children and the nation’s teachers and places them in harm’s way. The evidence is clear – the education sector was wholly unprepared for the reopening of schools in an environment in which COVID is flourishing.
The hasty and arbitrary re-opening of schools was reckless and irresponsible and teachers have recognized this and are taking appropriate action to force an uncaring regime to recognize the error of their actions and change course,” the Opposition reasoned.
However, the Education Ministry in a statement, warned that teachers who do not report for duty, will not be paid. “The Ministry of Education is adamant that there is no grievance/basis for strike action and urges all teachers, parents, and administrators not to fall prey to the political machinations of Coretta McDonald and the small cabal of self-serving individuals who have hijacked the Guyana Teachers Union. The Ministry reminds all that teachers who do not work do not get paid,” the Health Minister said.
It called on teachers to reject the “unconscionable” call of the GTU, noting that there were significant losses during the first 17 months of the pandemic.
“Here are the facts; our children have been home from school for over seventeen months; despite the world’s best efforts, there has been a well-chronicled resultant loss of learning and school-leaving (dropping out). Here in Guyana, we have evidence of significant learning loss and drop-outs at every level, with more than six hundred drop-outs recorded at the primary level alone. We are working assiduously to arrest this situation and reverse this reality for our children who have already fallen victim to these phenomena. We want all of our children engaged and in school and are working towards achieving this safely. There is no mandatory requirement for children to be vaccinated to return to classrooms,” the Education Ministry explained.
It noted that while vaccination of teachers is not mandatory, there are clear guidelines issued for those who do not want to be inoculated, in an effort to keep teachers, their families, and children safe.
The Opposition, in its statement, said it is time to take a different approach in the treatment of the nation’s workers – an approach that is humane, caring and respectful.
Against this background, the Opposition Coalition, in recent months, engaged in studied analysis of the challenges in the education sector and developed a comprehensive plan for the delivery of quality education to the nation’s children.
The main Opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change – is proposing the Revolutionizing of Education in the country. As part of its proposal, it is recommending that a $50,000 monthly Educational Support Grant (ESG) for all teachers to assist with covering expenses in the delivery of virtual learning, one high powered laptop per teacher, the provision of internet service to all teachers, and monthly zoom subscription paid for all teachers to allow for hosting of virtual classes.
Additionally, it is recommending a $50,000 Education Cash Grant (ECG) for each school aged child, $25,000 Device Voucher for each school aged child, $10,000 Internet Connectivity Voucher for each household, installation of WiFi HotSpots in villages throughout Guyana, and distribution of MiFi devices nationwide to households.
“We call on the PPP regime to change course, treat our teachers with respect and recognise that teachers are operating in an environment which imposes considerable difficulties and hardships on them and they require support and relief. We call on the PPP to examine our proposals and adopt them to the benefit of our nation’s teachers, students and parents,” the coalition urged