Teachers Union Branch Defies Independence Day Parade Schedule
The Benque Branch of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) has decided to not take part in the children’s Independence Day parade slated for tomorrow. The branch’s new President, Andrew Arnold, sent out a letter to parents informing them that the union has chosen to defy the Ministry of Education’s decision to parade on September 15, which is Guatemala’s Independence Day. The BNTU said that instead of marching on the fifteenth students will march on Wednesday, September 20. However, Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, says that the branch does not have the authority to make that decision and explained that the move may be motivated by political mischief makers.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “It’s very regrettable, it’s disappointing. I understand the BNTU executive that made this decision was just sworn in yesterday. These are people who have worked to undermine the outgoing president. I view it as mischief, political mischief, I won’t mince words. It’s political mischief. One of the key activists in the BNTU working on this matter her husband is running for mayor for the UDP. So I don’t want to mince words. I’m not, you know, they have every right to do what they want. But I want the Belizean people to understand what is happening. What better way, if it’s Guatemala’s Independence Day, what better way of ensuring that you are sending a very clear, strong signal that we are proud to be Belizeans, we are Belizeans. What does that have to do with Guatemala’s Independence Day? In fact, the message would be even louder and clearer on that day to send a clear signal to everybody in your community waving your Belizean flags, children waving their flags, singing the Belizean national anthem, saying the national prayer of Belize on that day and saying proudly we are Belizeans and we are not afraid of anybody else and we are not worried about Guatemala’s Independence Day. So I think it’s wrong headed, it’s in my view a very irresponsible decision and they have absolutely no authority to send out any release to the schools in that community saying that they are going to do what they want to do. There will be consequences for that.”
Minister Fonseca further explained that over the past weeks, his ministry had met with school administrators from that municipality and didn’t receive any objections of the parade’s date.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “That’s what’s surprising. As I said, this new executive, as I understand it, was just sworn in yesterday. It’s been an ongoing discussion, you know, because we are sensitive and we want to consult and engage. So the Chief Education Officer and the CEO in the ministry have been in discussions with the schools for more than a week on this matter. So there have been proper consultations.”
Reporter: So would you say that their argument in relation to Benque Viejo being a border town and the sensitivity of the territorial dispute, would you say that holds no substance in your opinion?
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “No, no, no and we also consulted by the way the OAS on this matter just to make sure that there were no sensitivities. But as I said that in Benque Viejo they have an even greater responsibility then to declare their absolute commitment and love for Belize and that should be the message, a unified clear message and not playing politics with an important day like children’s rally.”