Teachers’ Union Demands Retraction from Government Officials Over World Bank Report

Teachers’ Union Demands Retraction from Government Officials Over World Bank Report

The Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) is demanding a retraction of statements made last week by several government officials.  The statements came in response to the World Bank’s Report that indicated a discrepancy when comparing the investments made by the government and the outputs in terms of students’ test-taking scores.  Several officials commented on the report, saying that there is a need for improved teacher-performance in the classroom.  Minister of State for Finance, Christopher Coye, had indicated that the World Bank’s findings were consistent with the findings of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).  BNTU President, Jorge Mejia chastised the government for undermining the work of educators and says the union felt it was important to speak out. 

Jorge Mejia, BNTU President: “Despite of the finger pointing that the minister have stated in public this is not the real scenario. If we look at the educational triangle we speak of three main areas. One, teachers which is the schools, parents and students. This clearly indicates to us that we are not the only key stakeholders in education that is responsible in the education sector. Who manages this entire process is the Ministry of Education. The key stakeholders that should be responsible to ensure that all policies are in place should be the Ministry of Education and in extension the Chief Education Officer. Part of the education rule Education and Training Act on Chapter 36 revision edition of 2003 Part II section 4.1 speaks that the Chief Education Officer is solely responsible to submit to the minister any findings or any recommendation to the Minister in order at the end of the year by the mid of August. Should send reports to the minister on ways we can assist in looking at the different key areas that affect the education system. This should be presented to the minister and also to the council, the National Council of Education.”

Mejia says that despite several attempts to introduce policies that will tackle areas of concern in the education system, the Ministry of Education has not listened to the teachers. 

Jorge Mejia, BNTU President: “This has been an issue of both political parties. Both UDP and PUP in their role in the education sector they have the responsibility to ensure that these learning gaps are addressed properly. We all know that at the end of the day teachers are the only persons, the only professional that feels it. In this I’m saying that the teaching profession has become so tedious that teachers have to do almost everything in the classroom. One, we have to adjust ourselves to the new curriculum which itself is a burden for us teachers when those sharing with us knowledge about the new curriculum they are themselves lost. So these changes also affect us. Where are policies that involve our parents fully in the education sector ? But what have we seen is that the ministry engages in a lot of programs ,these programs are beautiful in paper. They’re executed but feedback, evaluation on how and what has the program done for the learning gap. What is it doing to ensure that our education system moves forward than backwards ? So we haven’t seen reports that usually come on board. We don’t see what happened with the program. These programs we need to start putting programs that will reduce the learning gap. COVID was a major factor on us going back with our learning outcomes.”

Majia says the assessment did not provide any evidence that directly attributed poor teaching to the outcome of the education force and is demanding the government clarify its statements.

Based on those comments, the BNTU is asking for the officials to retract their statements, and to start looking at how the monies in education are being spent.  According to the BNTU, the outputs in education has more to do with budget planning on the government’s part, and less to do with teachers’ performance.  While the BNTU is having a press conference in Belmopan at this hour, the Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, has responded to the union’s release.

In its release, the BNTU also noted, quote, “Rather than unjustly casting blame on teachers for the Government’s blunders in the management of the education system, the BNTU urges GOB to expediently resume the constructive dialogue as requested by the Joint Union Negotiating Team regarding “a comprehensive public sector salary review exercise, pension and tax reform, the signing of the aged-old collective bargaining agreement, and activation of the revenue enhancement and cost savings committee.”  End of quote.  We will have highlights of the BNTU’s press conference in our evening news.

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