An estimated seventy percent of teachers countrywide has received the Covid-19 vaccination. In recent weeks the Ministry of Education has been collaborating with the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) with the aim of getting as many teachers vaccinated prior to the reopening of schools. Love News spoke with Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, who clarified that the teachers and other frontline workers who choose not to take the vaccine will have to produce PCR tests every two weeks at their own expense.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “The last data that I got from the Ministry of Health and Wellness reported that 70%, that was reported on Tuesday to us, 70% of teachers are now vaccinated meaning they have either been fully vaccinated or have gotten the first shot. So that is 70%. So that is very very encouraging as you know it started slowly but it has been moving up slowly and deliberately so we’re very very happy about that. We had set a target of having at least 80% of our teachers vaccinated by the opening of schools in September so I think we’re well on our way to achieving that target and hopefully surpassing it. And I should add very quickly that that’s a collaboration between us and the Belize National Teachers Union I think that has resulted – of course along with the Ministry of Health and their very aggressive campaign. Now in terms of as you said the SI 74 and how that moves forward well first of all as you know the vaccine is not mandatory that has been something that has been thrown out there as a sort of red herring to take away from the essential message of the SI. Vaccines are not mandatory for teachers but the government is absolutely committed to using every tool, every facility available to it, every incentive or disincentive if you like to ensuring that our population is fully vaccinated. In terms of our teachers they are not required to be vaccinated but we are insisting as is provided for in the SI that if you’re not vaccinated then you have to produce a test. That test is not free to teachers, it’s not free to anyone of course as you know there is free testing available but for the purposes of this SI the testing is not free so that should be clear.”
Minister Fonseca also spoke on the strategy that the ministry and management of schools are looking at as it relates to the teachers who are unvaccinated. According to Fonseca, some unvaccinated teachers may have to resort to virtual classes.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “For example if a teacher is not vaccinated one option available to managing authorities is to have that teacher dedicated fully to online teaching for example so that’s one option that they’re looking at. And so until you get fully vaccinated you would not be able to go into the classroom and participate in face to face learning. So those are the sorts of things that are being considered and worked out and you know I’d really like to use the opportunity to make this fundamental point. When it comes to vaccinations this is really not an issue on which any Belizean should be planting an ideological flag. This is about the health and safety of our citizens. So when it comes to teachers it’s not because anybody wants to single out teachers or any other front line worker it’s because of the implications and consequences for other people. So if we have unvaccinated teachers in the classroom and somehow they get sick then there’s a greater opportunity for other persons, the students, their fellow teachers and then ultimately the families of those people. So it’s a national concern and we urge our teachers to get vaccinated not just for themselves but for their students, for their fellow teachers and for the families of their students. You know students, young people generally are not getting sick but the concern is about them taking home COVID to their grandparents or their parents and so that’s why I think we have to in a sense take a hard line on this issue.