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GoB’s Cut in Study Leave Went Without Union Consultation

The Education Ministry has suspended study leave with pay for teachers without consultation from the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU). Chief Education Officer (CEO) in the Ministry of Education, Yolanda Gongora issued the notice to the BNTU, administration of government, and government-aided schools late last week.  In that notice CEO Gongora stated that this decision for the suspension is part of the financial cutbacks that the Ministry of Education is currently engaged in.  Senator Smith stated that the decision without consultation was a slap in the face considering that it would directly disenfranchise teachers.

Senator Elena Smith, President of the Belize National Teachers Union

Senator Elena Smith, President of the Belize National Teachers Union: In terms of our position on it and our response we shared with the CEO that we were not too happy with the fact that we were not consulted on the matter and we thought that that’s a matter that they should consult with us about because our teachers are going to be affected especially our teachers who have to be leaving from a rural area to go and do studies to be able to meet licensing requirements that is one of the issues we had because we don’t want that it’s going to impact our teachers so that they would not be able to get a license if it is that they need a license and that study leave would have helped them to get a full license to be able to continue in the profession so we raised that issue. We also raised the issue of our own agreements that we have with them and how it would impact our agreements so those were the discussions we had with the ministry when we met with them yesterday.”

Keesha Flowers, Executive Secretary, Belize National Teachers Union: “We wanted to seek assurance that this move by the Ministry would not disenfranchise our teachers in any way and since we secured that assurance it is now just up to us to hold the Ministry’s feet to the fire to ensure that our teachers aren’t affected. We were informed that there were already thirteen persons who had applied in December, because there’s a deadline for December 31st to apply but those persons are not persons who require an upgrade for full license so they are ones who are applying to do Masters degree and upwards so those were denied.”

Smith noted that they are seeking alternatives as a result of this decision as teachers would be applying for license renewal very soon.

Senator Elena Smith, President of the Belize National Teachers Union: “If there are any teachers who would have applied for study leave for them to be able to meet requirements for licensing that’s another matter and we have another meeting with the ministry to address that area. So that if a teacher say would have been disenfranchised by not getting a study leave or not being able to get a study leave then what do we do and how do we assist that teacher so that that teacher would not be put out of the system because of a decision that the government or the ministry has made and those discussions we will have later on very shortly because time is going and we know that some teachers would have to be applying for license renewal very shortly. So we will be addressing that matter with the ministry urgently to ensure that those teachers would not be losing in any way as a result of this decision to stop study leave with pay right now.”

Reporter: That would have been my next question, did they discuss any alternatives for those teachers who won’t be able to get the assistance after September ?

Senator Elena Smith, President of the Belize National Teachers Union: “We had just basic discussion and then we are going to be meeting to do the negotiation and do the final agreements as it relates to that so it’s not something that – I mean we have an idea of what it is that we are presenting to the ministry but we don’t want to put that out to the public as yet because we have to negotiate but we feel that we have a strong case and in essence what we are going to be presenting or what we have presented to the ministry to ensure that our teachers are not disenfranchised will be accepted because again as I said we cannot allow, we cannot let our teachers get into a position where they will be disenfranchised because of a decision that the ministry had to make which would have been no fault of theirs. So we have to look at all of those areas in terms of CPD hours, in terms of maybe access to being able to study or any changes that might need to be made to the rules, any of those sorts of things we have to address when we meet with them for the follow up meeting.”

Teachers who are already on study leave with pay will not be affected by this recent decision. The suspension comes into effect on September 2021 and, for now it will last for that year only.