BNTU Pres says they did not agree to quick return
The Ministry of Education said over the weekend that classes should resume today – that is, if it is safe to do so. The Ministry said that the decision was arrived at after it consulted the Belize National Teachers’ Union and the general managers of the affected schools. The Ministry said that the plan was to use this week as a transition period to prepare for a full return by next Monday. In extreme cases, however, the deadline would be extended. The Ministry also reported that schools that have been extensively impacted have already been in touch with the ministry, and various allowances for the additional days needed for cleaning and restoration have been granted. But, the union says that the release was quote “an act of bad faith and one that will definitely cause a reaction from our members” (End of quote). BNTU President, Senator Elena Smith explained that one reason behind their position is that many of their members are incapable of meeting these deadlines.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers’s Union: “Obviously our teachers were upset with that decision especially those who know firsthand what it is that they are going through. We have several of our teachers, many of our teachers who have suffered damage to their homes. We have many of our students who have suffered as well and it seems a bit rushing to say classes begin as normal today knowing that we are just coming out of a hurricane and people have not yet gotten on their feet. You are seeing right now firsthand what Wesley Lower School is going through and this is just one school so imagine these teachers have to deal with their homes and have to come to school to deal with school to be able to reopen there is no way that they can reopen today. Had the ministry come out to do an assessment of these schools they would have understood what our teachers were saying to us and what our students and parents are saying because it’s not just about the teachers it’s about our students and our parents who really and truly at this point in time are not prepared to return to the classroom as yet.”
The position had to be revisited since many teachers in the Belize District were affected. Senator Smith discussed what came out of the meeting with Minister Francis Fonseca and she also stressed that while teachers will be unavoidably out of class, this is not a holiday.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers’s Union: “We discussed with the minister the issues being faced by teachers of the Belize district, their students and their parents and we came to an agreement that for this week there wouldn’t be normal classes, that classes would begin a 14th that would be next Monday so that this week our teachers, our parents, our students could be taking the time to prepare themselves for next week so that when the 14th comes everybody should be ready and able to be in the classroom. We also discussed the fact that a lot of our teachers need help, their roofs have been destroyed and so we ask that the government pay keen attention and prioritize our teachers in terms of assistance to them so that they can be satisfied that their homes are safe, you know their families will be safe and they can report to school on the 14th. All of those things we agreed to in the meeting. We also agreed that for this week that teachers must be told that this is not a holiday week, that they must report to school those who can because as school may not have been damaged but there may be teachers at that school who have received damage so while your school is good you can report to work. So that was the reason we were asking for the time off so that not just teachers but parents and students could get ready as well. So we agreed to the 14th. As I said just now we agreed that it’s not a holiday and teachers must come to school those who can help the school to clean up, prepare their school and those who can’t then take the time to prepare their homes and that there would be no repercussions if you will in terms of teachers not being able to make it this week of school then lo and behold we saw a press release that said that in collaboration with us at the management that it was decided – we didn’t decide to come back today we agreed with the minister to come back on the 14th because we knew the situation on the ground, we were getting pictures from our teachers, we were getting first hand information.”
And today, Love News put the teachers’ concerns to Prime Minister John Briceno. PM Briceno made it very clear that students have already lost so much time away from classes.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “It’s not for the BNTU to decide it’s for the Ministry of Education to decide and we said from early on that we need to get our children back to school. And that is why Minister Fonseca insisted for schools to open on Monday. We were very clear about that and we need to catch up our kids have lost so many time being away from school so I don’t know what’s the back and forth between BNTU and the Ministry of Education but what I can tell you is that the Ministry of Education of course they would consult with the teachers, consult with the managers, different managements and consult with the BNTU but at the end of the day it’s the Ministry of Education that would decide when best we can we open school and our government believes that we should not waste a single day on keeping our children out of school.”