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Minister of Education Weighs in on the Sankat Situation

The Board of Trustees of the University of Belize has met to discuss the Professor Clement Sankat issue. The president of the national university has been out of the country for more one year and has been collecting, as per his five-year country, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per annum. The university has also been paying his monthly rent expense at four thousand dollars. The University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union had written to the board, expressing their discontent with Sankat and the revelation made by an accredited public accountant who discovered that there was no need for the university to implement a salary cut. Education Minister Francis Fonseca, told Love News that the board is in negotiation with Sankat to have his contract terminated before its expiration date.

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “The only update is that the board has met, the board has made a decision to engage with the president to try to work out, negotiate if you like, some settlement as it relates to his existing contract. So there’s an ongoing discussion I don’t want to say more than that because there’s an ongoing very delicate discussion taking place. But my sense is that both sides agree that it is perhaps time for that contract to come to an end. Question is how do we negotiate an acceptable, amenable end to it so that we can then move forward with a new start in terms of leadership for the national university.”

The accountant’s memo also revealed that the university made a surplus of more than two million dollars. Minister Fonseca says that the university’s finances must be reviewed.

 

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: It has to be looked at and assessed because it presents a kind of false picture of the finances of UB. There were some savings but they’re sort of one-time savings because of particular decisions that were made in terms of staff and administrative faculty and that type of thing last year. But keep in mind that the subvention for UB last year was cut. That was cut from I think eleven million dollars to eight point five million dollars and we are going to have to maintain it in this new budget at that reduced subvention at eight point five million for this year. So that has to be factored in that we can’t say ‘oh we have a million dollars in the bank’ somehow not taking into account that in fact the subvention received from government has been cut by two point five million dollars last year under the last administration and we are keeping that in place for this year. We’re hopeful that as things recover and rebound then we can restore UB’s subvention to its full eleven million dollars and then move forward but it would be very irresponsible for the board to make any decisions about salaries at this time when we are still in very uncertain economic times about the future of UB. So it has to be assessed, we have to review it and then when we know that we’re on a better financial footing we can make decisions about restoring salaries.”

 And on the topic of resuming face to face classes on April 12, Fonseca says that technology must always play a key role in education moving forward. 

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “We have to have a hybrid approach to learning moving forward. I think I want to make that very clear to the Belizean people that there’s no turning back. Technology and distanced learning will be a part of our education moving forward and I think we need to embrace that, we need to make effective and efficient use of technology so even when we return to classes face to face instruction we will still be making use of technology, there will still be a hybrid approach to learning. In some schools in terms of the plans that have been submitted already some schools are saying listen we will have a few days of in-class instruction and perhaps say two days in class and three days online, other schools are saying listen we will have a shift system in place where we have certain forms for example secondary schools are saying maybe we have first and second form come in the morning, third and fourth form come in the afternoon so there will be a hybrid approach to learning moving forward and technology is here to stay, we have to make use of it.”