The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) has expressed some concerns over the Ministry of Education’s decision to proceed with a plan without consulting them. The union’s President, Elena Smith explained that they were called into an initial meeting but when the time came to make a final decision on how they would proceed, the union was left out.
Senator Elena Smith, Pressident, Belize National Teachers Union: “We had a meeting with CEO and Dr.Babb just the week before and they wanted to share with us what were some of their thoughts and plans that they had. We did not get to the point where there was agreement on the way forward because it was just an initial discussion. We would have had a meeting yesterday and we would have discussed those further. So some of the matters that the minister spoke about we were aware of but we were not aware that the decisions had already been made. When we had the meeting the week prior right after that meeting we had sent out some information to our teachers and we were asking them just some ‘What if?’ questions; ‘What if we go until the end of the school year what would happen? When do we begin ? How do you feel about starting a new school year in August / September?’ So we were putting out those sorts of questions to them trying to get some feedback from them so when the announcement came from the minister we had already gotten some feedback from our teachers regarding some of those issues. I can tell you the matter of promotion for example a lot of teachers are not happy with that one because they feel that they as teachers and their principals of their school or their vice principals should be able to look at the students individually look at how they’ve been doing and then determine whether these students are promoted or not based on performance that they had over the past term and a half or almost two terms. So there are some who are not satisfied or who are not happy with that decision. Nonetheless the ministry has made it clear to us yesterday that that decision is final and so there’s no changing or other matter to that matter of promotion especially for students from infant one to standard five and then first to third form. Standard six and fourth form students the schools would then have a little bit more say in whether those students graduate or not depending on what the school expects of these students before they graduate. So that is an issue that we’re battling with right now as teachers.”
It is still unclear whether the union will be foregoing their increments for this year or if it is merely a delay in collection. According to Smith, a final agreement is yet to be reached with the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight.
Senator Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “We have been discussions with the Financial Secretary and his team to discuss the matter of this increment freeze or the foregoing of the increment as they are calling it and so those negotiations continue. We await feedback from them because we had made some counter proposals to what they presented to and we await hearing from them as to what it is that they would be accepting from us and how we proceed forward. We know the circumstances and even though they have assured us as best as they can that their employees that they will do all in their power to ensure that we are paid we really and truly don’t know what lies down the road. So we may be able to say for now well okay April’s salary is safe and May is safe and maybe June is safe we don’t even know that so we have to continue the discussion because we’re not at the point where we know for sure but we are preparing and so as a union we are looking at possible scenarios that could happen and what would be our response should those scenarios come into play.”
Smith says it has been brought to her attention that teachers are torn between what their school’s administration is directing them to do and what the ministry is saying. Her advice is to those teachers is to follow the ministry’s directive.
Senator Elena Smith, President, BNTU:”The ministry is giving this information and then the school principal sometimes are contradicting what the ministry is saying and so we say to our teachers you must go by what the ministry is saying. Teachers keep reaching out to us with those concerns so we’re saying to them go by what the ministry is saying. The ministry is saying that the students must be engaged but it is not as if though you are having regular classes so this is no time to be giving tests and quizzes and projects and to say ‘come in to school.’ Teaching is not an essential service so there’s no reason for teachers to be going to school right now.”