Sep 12, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The Ministry of Education is reminding teachers, who opted not to take part in the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) sponsored strike this past week, that they cannot and will not be punished and that the Ministry will in fact guarantee their protection.
This was the position adumbrated by the Ministry yesterday in response to what it called reports of open and subtle threats being made to teachers who decided not to participate in the present strike action being engaged by the GTU.
According to a public missive issued by the Ministry yesterday, it is in receipt of several complaints from recipients of the GTU facilitated Government of Guyana scholarships that they are being advised that their scholarship would be in jeopardy if they do not participate in the strike.
As such, it was elucidated that Government through the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Service, “wishes to make explicitly clear that scholarships are not granted based on anyone’s political affiliation nor whether they support strike action or not and would not be taken away because of the same.”
Accordingly, the Ministry said, “…the GTU does not have jurisdiction to revoke any scholarship that was granted to a teacher by the Government of Guyana, even if the scholarships came from the arrangement between the Government and the Union.”
The Ministry said too, it is equally aware that the promise of duty-free concession and the power to withhold same is being used in these circumstances to gain participation in the strike.
According to the Ministry, “we reject all attempts by politically motivated forces within the GTU to threaten those teachers who have chosen not to participate in the present strike action and ask that good sense prevail as we work in earnest to move the education system forward and meaningfully engage our children academically at this time of international crisis.”
This past week hundreds of teachers from across the country engaged in a three-day strike action in front of the Ministry of Education’s Brickdam office and other locations, to protest the recent vaccination mandate that was put in place by the government.
Members of the GTU on Tuesday during a virtual meeting announced plans for the three-day strike action in hopes of having the vaccination policy for teachers rescinded.
Government, ahead of the strike action, had updated the COVID-19 emergency measures in the Official Gazette stating that any person who wishes to enter a public building, which they have lawful access to, must be vaccinated.
The Education Ministry before opening schools had issued a notice that teachers must be vaccinated before they return to schools or submit a negative PCR test once per week if they wish to not to be vaccinated.
Following the COVID-19 restrictions, the GTU had indicated that it was against the vaccination mandate for teachers and had even expressed disapproval on the arrangement made for the reopening of schools as it relates to teachers being marked absent if they cannot produce the PCR test results.
After the Union’s call for strike, the Education Ministry in a statement on Tuesday evening condemned the action by the GTU calling it “unconscionable and uncaring.”
“We condemn this action as irresponsible and not reflective of the realities of the present state of the COVID-19 pandemic nor the needs of the nation’s children,” the Ministry stated.
The Ministry further noted that vaccination for teachers is not mandatory, but stressed that for those who do not want to be vaccinated, there are other guidelines put in place, that is, to submit a PCR test.
The Union’s General Secretary, Coretta McDonald, had told media operatives that the restrictions need to be lifted. She is of the position that the protest is not only concerning the vaccine but other financial issues not honoured to the Union by the Ministry.
“If the Minister and her colleagues are ready to lift the restrictions in the Gazetted order, and they are ready to honour our obligations and the financial obligations, we would say to our members, return to school in full strength for both face-to-face and online classes,” she had asserted. Until they are ready to talk, she said, “we will continue to ask teachers to withhold their services.”
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