The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) has been contemplating strike action in recent days over three points of contention that they have with the Ministry of Education. While the final decision is still pending there is a war with words going on between the union and the ministry. Just yesterday the ministry sent out a release appealing to the teachers not to be misinformed. According to the ministry, there are amendments that they want to put into place to the Education Rules, but it would require a Statutory Instrument which is still not in place. The union responded to the ministry’s release saying that the union is being disingenuous. Chief Education Officer, Dr Carol Babb, rejected Smith’s statement and says, ‘let’s not fight’. Dr Babb explained what changes they are attempting to make to the Education Rules.
Dr.Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education: “And all we are saying to the BNTU- we don’t want to quarrel and fight with the BNTU, we are saying that there are some amendments that need to be made and that proposal is at the SolGen’s office. We can’t meet with them and tell them what is going on because we don’t know ourselves. We did not meet with the union we met with the NCE and the NCTVET, those are two bodies that advise the minister.”
Reporter: On which the union had membership.
Dr.Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education: “And the union has membership and so we consulted with them, we shared with them because Christmas fell on a Wednesday this year the education rules speak to the fact that if Christmas falls on a Wednesday like that then you’ll only be entitled to two weeks vacation. So the teachers insisted that they must get three weeks but we already did that but you have to amend the rule because it would mean that we who should be upholding the rule we are breaking the rule. In our memo if you read the last line it said we are willing to meet and discuss with the union and all managing authorities once we’ve heard back from the SolGen’s office. Nothing is written as a final decision so I wouldn’t want teachers to get uptight about nothing. We have teacher’s back too you know? We are educators.”
With both sides considered, it seems like a simple case that could be solved through negotiations. According to Dr Babb, however, her calls to Senator Smith are going unanswered.
Dr.Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer: “Honestly I don’t know why there’s all this fanfare about the Ministry wanting to make changes without – we have said to them, read the memo, we are willing to consult with them. I mean they fought for three weeks Minister Faber said ‘let’s give it to them.’ but all we are saying and we are asking the NCE and the NCTVET how do we make up the lost time for the students ? In the education rule it speaks to a hundred and eighty days, contact days not hours. So the students have lost a week, what are your plans, what are your proposals ? So we are listening to the NCE, we are listening to the NCTVET but no decision has been made. We have written to Senator Smith and I have sat down with her many times, I tried calling her over the weekend to tell her ‘let us sit down and talk’ but I did not get an answer. I am telling you, I could show you my phone, I tried talking with her. Personally as Chief Education Officer we don’t want confrontation, education does not need confrontation we need to work together for the betterment of everyone particularly the students.”
Love News is following the developments of this situation.