By Enid Joaquin in Linden
Teachers in Region 10 yesterday took to the streets of Linden in protest on the first day of the new school year.
They have unanimously agreed to strike until their demands for an increase in wages and salaries are met.
Vociferously chanting through the streets, the teachers picketed the Region 10 Education Department twice yesterday, holding placards prominently citing their disillusionment with the way they have been treated over the years.
The first picketing exercise started around 08:00 hours after which the contingent later converged for a meeting at LICHAS Mackenzie High School. They subsequently reassembled in front of the Department of Education, where the chants grew even louder. There, Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson was expected to address them, but even after half an hour of protesting, during which time teachers demanded to see him, there was still no sign of Hutson. Hutson had earlier in the day visited the Linden Foundation Secondary School.
At LICHAS, the visibly emotional teachers vowed to stand their ground until their demands are met.
“Teachers don’t have a hustle, we can’t take bribe, we can’t sell anything….they say it bold…this is the property of the Ministry of Education….not for sale,” Chairman of GTU’s Linden Branch, Ferdinand McCleod, declared.
In alluding to the first march last Monday, McLeod said “it was a bit shaky, but good. But we are ready now!”
He called the Ministry of Education’s plan to substitute trainees and retirees for the striking teachers, “total disrespect.”
He however said that he was heartened by the teachers’ commitment to the strike action.
“Teachers, I’m just asking you to hold the fort, hold your ground, hold your brother, hold your sister, strengthen them and pray. Don’t be a coward….we shall overcome this.”
Lois Moseley who was particularly vocal, questioned how many teachers could buy cars with their own money, and pointed out that every teacher should be able to afford some form of transportation. She also cited cases in which school students are eating better snacks than the teachers, which they proudly flaunt, while teachers sometimes have to hide and eat their egg balls and channa or sometimes a piece of bread that they had brought from home.
Former Member of Parliament and Teacher Vanessa Kissoon posited, “If by this (yesterday) evening, we don’t get a positive word coming from these people …we don’t care if Georgetown go out, we don’t care if East Coast go out, we don’t care if Essequibo or West Dem go out, we ain’t going out!”
Kissoon alluded to St. Lucia where she said teachers went on strike for one year, at the end of which they were given an increase of 100 percent on their salaries.
According to Kissoon too, the parents, who were in full support of the teachers, kept their children at home.
Meanwhile, second-year students of the Cyril Potter College of Education [CPCE] were deployed to various schools across Linden, after turning up at the Region 10 Education Department.
Former Regional Education Officer Jennifer Bourne told the students that this would be the plan of action until the Guyana Teachers’ Union and Government arrive at an agreement.
However, some students appeared not pleased with this plan of action and a few even said it is unfair, while others are of the view that they are being used as pawns to fight progress and development.
Bourne warned students not to tamper with attendance registers, log books or any other records and were given two exercise books to record students’ attendance and other pertinent information.
She encouraged CPCE students to use this opportunity as an experience for when they are officially placed in classrooms.
Other persons were also reportedly recruited to fill the gap of teachers who are on strike.
But even with this plan of action, many parents kept their children at home. However, a few students who turned up for school had to return home, as most teachers were out protesting.
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