The Ministry of Education issued a brief statement yesterday stating that they will be revising the calendar for the upcoming school year which saw the Christmas holiday shortened for the teachers in pre and primary schools that are government and government aided. The calendar came with much opposition and a letter was fired off the the Chief Education Officer, Dr Carol Babb from the President of the Belize National Teachers Union, Senator Elena Smith. Today, a meeting was held between both parties.
Elena Smith – President of the BNTU: “Well, we met with the Ministry this morning and we had requested a meeting with them. I had sent Dr. Babb our concerns regarding that matter and we spoke about those concerns so we had a meeting this morning to look at that matter and it was agreed that for this school year that the Christmas vacation would remain as it normally would be, that would be three weeks for this year. It was also agreed to that we need to look at the education rules because there has to be some revision to the education rules, that has been in the pipeline for some time now and we have not been looking at it in a manner that would have us see it completely so what we have to do now is to spend more time in reviewing the rules and making those amendments. There are several things that we have to look at but one that has to do with this one would be the rules that deals with the school year over the vacation period and the number of school days, that sort of thing but it is not going to just be revision for that purpose, it has to be that we look at everything that needs revising.”
Senator Smith told Love News that the union had agreed to meet in the near future to discuss other rules and policies in the education sector with an aim to make practical revisions.
Elena Smith – President of the BNTU: “Well, we have to agree with you that they are some of the hardest workers. Sometimes we tend to want to compare teachers with other professions and there is no comparison because when we look at the amount of work that teachers do people might say oh they get a lot of holidays and this one gets that and the other one get that but the fact remains that even when we are on vacation we have work to do. As teachers, despite the fact that we are on a similar pay scale as the public officers we don’t get paid for the overtime that we do and teachers put in a lot of overtime so if it is that teachers were to work 8:30 until 3 which would be your work day or 8 to 5 as a public service officers, if we were to work just those hours a lot of things would not get done so really and truly there is no comparison. The time is needed, teachers do need that break after three months after all they go through, to take that break and recuperate, to get your mind ready for another three to four months again, hence the reason why we have those breaks in between the year and not at the end of the year because it is quite necessary.”
Courtney Menzies: “ And MOE, what is the reasoning behind it?”
Elena Smith – President of the BNTU: “The rules, what the rules say but what we’ve pointed out to them is the fact that we have an agreement from 1986 when Mr. Aragon was the Minister of Education where it was agreed that the number of weeks for the school year would be reduced from forty to thirty-eight and so it has always been, I showed them calendars from 2011 to present that we have always had thirty-eight weeks every school year and that was because of that agreement that we had from eighty-six so to change it now to thirty-nine would be going against that agreement. What they are saying is that despite the fact that that is an agreement that the rules are clear and that we must abide by the rules but at the same time you can’t just come and say okay you know what the rules are here, we have not been following them but you know what this year we will follow them and so starting now we are going to enforce them, it can’t be just like that so those were some of the things that we raised.”
There is much more to share with you from the union’s perspective. Join us for tomorrow’s newscast to hear more on the life of a teacher in and outside the classroom.