Feb 06, 2024 Editorial
Kaieteur News – It has been said time and again that teachers belong in the classroom, but there they were on the streets yesterday protesting for better wages in a country plush with oil resources.
The excuse of the PPP/C government that has been indebting this country daily is that they cannot afford to pay our educators more than the paltry 6.5% increase it offered to the traditional public servants. As we reported yesterday Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo who is full of excuses has blamed the volatile oil prices for government’s decision not to increase the wages and salaries of public servants by 50 percent although they have been taking loans upon loans to fund their plans.
This year alone, public debt is set to increase by another US$2.2B, up from US$4.5B at the end of 2023. This means that by year-end, the country will be saddled with a debt of about US$6.7B. It was Jagdeo at a press conference earlier this year that told reporters some 40% of this year’s $1.146 trillion Budget will be backed by loans. The VP presented a case against increasing public servants’ wages by 50 percent, arguing that the Opposition’s call for workers to be paid more was merely a political gimmick. He said that such a move could even bankrupt the economy, but not concerned about our ballooning debt.
To understand the plight of our teachers, one had to read some of placards they carried during their protest action Monday. Prior to yesterday, General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union had told this newspaper that: “Many teachers go to work in some questionable working conditions and for pay that is also below par.” She added: “I can give you some examples at the Peter’s Hall Primary School, teachers would have to leave the school compound and visit the mall to use the bathroom because the school toilets are out of order. Another teacher fell through the floors at her school…yet the government is refusing to pay teachers livable wages”
It has to take a considerable amount of anxiety to push them to the action of broadcasting their woes in public as they did yesterday. The teachers’ protest countrywide had to do with the usual concerns-pay, past monies due, and commitments not honoured. The core of their concerns is that they are having great difficulty living with dignity. Their placards and words tell their story.
“Everything has increased except teachers’ wages and salaries”. There is a certain solidity to that claim because it has been the cry of other workers in other sectors across Guyana. Guyanese are feeling considerable pain, and it is a crying shame that so many cannot buy the basics when they are dubbed as the richest people on the planet by experts. The pain of teachers is real, and not imagined or pretended. When the wages and salaries of Guyanese teachers are compared against those of their peers across the region, they come across as paltry and pathetic. The fact that Guyana now floats on a huge lake of oil only serves to emphasize that the conditions of teachers and other workers across Guyana just should not be where they are. This country has too much going for it currently, and there is the risk that the gaudy economic numbers only enable a few to prosper, while many are left in the ranks of what can only be described as the pauperized in the reality of their hard existence.
It is an insult when a trained teacher, after years of study, is paid a starting monthly salary of just over $100,000. After all that effort and all that application to what is believed to be more than a career, something that is very much a calling, there is this monthly salary that is so close to the national minimum wage. As Guyanese have been made jarringly familiar by now, $100,000 a month cannot cover the basics of living, with fixed commitments, such as mortgage or rent, and the prices of food and other essentials ever rising.
This is why teachers are forced to do second jobs to make ends meet, to have a little something more to share with their families, and to live with some level of self-respect. Naturally, since they are forced by circumstances to engage in extra wage-earning activity outside the classroom, this begs the question about how much focus and energy they are able to bring to bear to their daytime classroom duties. Clearly, when teachers are compelled to work at nights and on the weekends (one even works as a bouncer at a nightclub), the keenness of their strength and their spirit in their full-time day job in schools come under some degree of duress. It goes without saying that both the educational system and the young charges pay some sort of price due to circumstances involving pay and other benefits. Moreover, the Teachers’ Union is aware of the presence of oil in Guyana and the difference that it can make. While we at this newspaper sympathise with the students who will face the brunt of this strike, we cannot help but support the teachers in their quest for betterment. The unfortunate thing is that they are seeking this from an indifferent government.
Leaders prostituting Guyana
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