And in an unexpected move from the Ministry of Education, an announcement was sent out earlier today dubbing tomorrow a non-school day to accommodate the teachers and students who will be demonstrating. We say unexpected because ordinarily the ministry would engage the BNTU and pose difficulties when it comes to the day’s pay. In the release the Chief Education Officer, Dr Carol Babb stated, in part, quote, “I hereby grant a non-school day to the managing authorties of government and government aided schools on Thursday, February 20, 2020. It is prudent, in the circumstances, that the day be granted and will safeguard the financial and other resources of the Ministry of Education.” End of quote. The release goes on to say that the ministry will engage with the relevant persons on how to ensure that the provision of 180 school days required will still be met for the school year. With that said we sought some clarification from the BNTU President as to how this will affect the teachers who choose not to take part in tomorrow’s demonstration.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teacher’s Union: “The memo says it’s a non school day but the end of the memo spoke to the hundred and eighty days so – but that’s another matter. Even without that we note that we have many of our teachers who have signed up to be here tomorrow so we expect from BNTU alone to have over thirty buses coming from the districts. The memo says, pre primary, primary, secondary, tertiary and ITVET and so then our teachers now have no excuse why they can’t come and support us, the union is providing transportation for all of our teachers and as we normally do you know we provide a food stipend for them so there’s really no reason why teachers should not come out. We know that even before this a few managements had sent support for their teachers so we trust that we’ll see our teachers coming out in more numbers than what we’ve had up to today.”
Reporter: And the non school day applies to government and government aided schools but not to private schools.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teacher’s Union: “Correct but it doesn’t mean that private schools cannot support us, if they feel that the issues that we are raising are important issues then we welcome them to come and join us.”
Reporter: I understand that teachers who do not go to the demonstration are still required to show up to school.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teacher’s Union: “Well it’s a non school day and so it’s given for a specific reason so the managements then would determine how that would happen if whether they would require the teachers who don’t attend to be at school and sign in and that kind of thing, that will come from the managements but as far as we are concerned it’s a non school day and so the teachers then can then have the freedom to come out and join us.”
To reiterate, there will be no classes for students at the government and government-aided school tomorrow.