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As the teachers of Linden continue to protest the government’s mandatory vaccination policy blocking them from entering school compounds, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) promises continued representation.
“Boots on the ground, we aint backing down,” and “My body, my choice” are two out of the many chants that are shouted by teachers in the streets of Linden as they protest on weekdays.
The teachers have been protesting for more than two weeks and have been joined by some parents, auxiliary staff and other persons of the community.
After more than a year, face-to-face learning resumed countrywide on September 6, 2021 and the Government of Guyana has made it mandatory for teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a negative PCR test at their own expense every week in order to access school compounds.
The Guyana Teachers’ Union along with the Public Service Union and Guyana Trade Union Congress are challenging the State’s implementation of the vaccination and PCR testing requirements under the COVID-19 Emergency Measures (No.20).
Present at a recent protest held in Linden was the President of GTU, Mark Lyte and General Secretary of GTU, Coretta McDonald.
McDonald in addressing the teachers made it clear that the protest is not about politics but about the wellbeing and human rights of teachers.
She went on to say, “We are not saying that the teachers who would like to get the vaccine should not go out there and get it, we are saying it is our choice. You cannot tell me that you care for me and you want to dictate how I must live my life. It is not going to work with us as teachers. I have a right to decide what I put in my body.”
McDonald called for the government to provide the Pfizer vaccine for teachers who wish to be vaccinated and free PCR testing for those teachers who do not wish to be vaccinated.
The General Secretary of GTU noted that the teachers along with GTU will continue to protest until their demands are met.
She said, “Teachers, we will continue to stand because we are paving the way not only for ourselves but we are paving the way for all of those young teachers who are amongst us and for all of those young men and women who want to become teachers.”
“We are not backing down. We will continue to stand; we will continue to make our demands until our demands are met. In unity there is strength and together we will stand tall, your leaders will continue to stand for you, have no doubt about it,” McDonald added.
During his brief statement, Lyte adviced the teachers to ignore threats of pay cuts, revoked duty free concessions and scholarships because GTU will ensure that they get the benefits they deserve.
Adding to what McDonald said, Lyte reassured the teachers that the GTU are backing them and will continue to represent them until their demands are met.
The Union has your back, the GTU has never failed on its promise. We have always represented our teachers and will always do. This protest continues until our needs and demands are met. The is a battle we will win. The union would never engage itself in a battle that was lost,” he stated.
Lyte told the teachers that the Union is proud of them for continuing to fight for their rights.
“I would like to say to Region 10 that we are extremely proud of you. You are the pace setters; you show all the other education districts how it is done. You deserve respect, you deserve to be respected. We have invested years of sacrifice in training so do not be bullied,” he added.
Meanwhile, high school teacher, Vanessa Kissoon noted that she along with the other teachers are dissatisfied with the treatment they are receiving from the Ministry of Education.
In expressing her concerns Kissoon to this newspaper, “I am concerned as a parent and a teacher. Concerned about these nursery school children, all the schools are not ready for face to face interaction, you have schools where water is not flowing, toilets are not working properly. We need these things to be fixed.”
She went on to say, “Our main desire is to ensure that our children, the future of this nation have an education. We love our students and we want the best for them but at the same time we have to stand up because when our rights are being violated we have to stand up against that and we need to teach our children that they need to stand up when their rights are being violated.”