Sep 21, 2023 News
– as hundreds of teachers stay away from school in protest for better pay
Kaieteur News – Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has expressed concern over reports that hundreds of teachers have been absent from schools in Region Six as part of protest action calling for an increase in salaries.
Kaieteur News understands that the protest started on the Corentyne, Region Six and has moved to schools on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD).
Last week, close to 80 percent of teachers on the Corentyne did not attend classes and 40 percent of them along the EBD stayed away from school due to the sick out. The protest is part of planned activities to get the government to start negotiations for the proposed multi-year agreement. The proposal addresses 13 critical areas, including issues related to salaries, gratuity, duty-free concession, hinterland benefits and grants.
Minister Manickchand told reporters on Monday that the Education Ministry became aware of the issue and is urging teachers not to withhold their services. The minister expressed concern over the impact that absentee teachers can have on children who have already suffered learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So, we are just coming out of a COVID period where we are seeing very forcefully, the effects of children staying home and being without instruction. Anyone, who asks children to go without education is someone without a conscience… There are very many different ways to resolve issues, and I am hoping that the various bodies and individuals will address their minds to those consequences. Anytime a child goes without teaching, I am concerned,” Manickchand said.
The Minister noted that she is aware of some of the demands of the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) but she said that her Ministry has been working to address the concerns of teachers.
“We have a very good relationship with the Union contrary to what some people may think. We continue at the Ministry of Education to speak to GTU very regularly and cordially. We have, I think, a good relationship with them professionally. We have met with the Union and continue to meet with the Union to have some of these matters,” she said adding that Ministry has been putting in the effort to help make the work of teachers much easier.
“We are around giving out, right now, grants to schools, so that teachers have autonomy in their classrooms, and teachers get to independently supply to those classrooms, whatever they say and need, to take teaching and learning further. We have given textbooks to all of our primary and secondary school children or are in the process of giving those textbooks, that make a teacher’s life much, much easier,” Manickchand said.
She said the issue of salary increase remains paramount on the list. She noted however, that that matter is being handled by President Irfaan Ali.
“President has made it clear that his office will deal with salaries and that kind of benefit,” Manickchand said.
In a recent meeting with the press, President Ali announced that when he returns to Guyana from the United Nations General Assembly, he would be consulting teachers about salaries and other benefits.
“There will be the adjustment for teachers,” he said, and he promised that government would address whatever issues the educators raise. Asked whether the GTU would be involved in those talks, the President said “every Guyanese who wants to be involved; my consultations are very open.”
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