Pandemic forces recognition teachers labouring under difficult conditions & deserve better

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The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) held their triennial conference last week under the theme. ‘Embracing new education perspectives in a pandemic.’ Education is the stairway to our nation’s development. It is the pillar upon which we as a people must rise to deal with the challenge of an oil economy and a more developed society. Teachers, potential and active- must be able to have access to 21st Century learning, methodologies and technologies in order to educate their charges.

No excuses should be made if we are to provide what is necessary for those tasked with the responsibility for moulding the minds that will take the reins of their future, that of ours, as well as that of our country and generations to come. No expense should be spared in ensuring provision of the requisite resources to the Cyril Potter College of Education and the University of Guyana befitting a 21st Century society. The constitutional right to free education- from nursery to the university- according to Article 27 must be respected.

The political promise of returning this right is unacceptable. A right is always a right and enforceable. Where the Government is seemingly unprepared to realise the enforcement of this right, in the here and now, the Opposition is being called on to act. Take this matter to the National Assembly for deliberation and action. It is time that we have bipartisan support in parliament on matters of national import. If money could be found to fund other things, it must be found to fund a solid education from nursery to university for all our people.

Free education is not only about erecting buildings and expecting teachers to stand before the classroom to deliver an education. They need the required resources, personal and environmental- teaching aids, proper salary and non-salary benefits, and an environment conducive to learning, health, safety and proper observance of the COVID-19 guidelines. Whereas quantifying and qualifying the learning loss will be the task of the GTU, it is widely known the service has been adversely impacted.

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The pandemic has forced recognition that teachers have been labouring under difficult conditions and deserve to be treated better. Further, it has forced recognition that we should not wait on a pandemic to embrace new perspectives in education. The very nature of education should be ongoing and always innovative and creative. In the Information Age, it is a shame persons are still being hindered in the performance of their duties, not because of a lock down, but because of the inability to access the internet, the additional financial burden to do so, access to computer/laptop, having to teach children who had their own limitations of not having an internet service or computers in their homes.

Education and health are integral to development. Those who impart knowledge, likewise the beneficiary of same, deserve to work and be schooled in an environment conducive to learning, health, safety and growth. The health and wellness of the nation’s human resource-its most vital factor in production- are critical. Consequently, attention is being drawn to deteriorating conditions of the health services. As the nation notes the construction of buildings, it is similarly noted that unequal attention is being paid to building the nation’s human resource capacity to deliver optimal service.

Guyana is suffering from a deficit of sufficient investments in education and health, which are basic rights. This deficit must be addressed as a matter of urgency. This nation must no longer see these rights as matters of division and tension between the ordinary workers/citizens and their political leaders. The former should not have to function in an environment where quality access is being eroded, because the latter has become desensitised or uncaring because they and their loved ones could access same overseas at the taxpayers’ expense.

Equal rights and justice are not a slogan. They are universally acceptable principles that must guide laws, policies, and programmes in a nation. But this could only be assured when the trade union reasserts its position as a leading force in society, advancing, defending, protecting and ensuring basic rights are upheld for all. This pandemic has taught us how valuable is a good health service, and how important is the ability to continue the delivery of education, notwithstanding the pre-pandemic shortcomings. The pandemic has taught us that a nation that fails to plan, plans to fail. Ours is the task to move with alacrity to right the wrongs. To our teachers, the moulders of the nation’s mind, solidarity forever.



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