About a week ago the matter between the Belize National Teachers Union and Ministry of Education was settled and the teachers who went on strike managed to not have their salaries touched despite them not being in the classroom for eleven days. The non-payment of teachers was one that Education Minister, Patrick Faber was initially adamant on upholding as well as the additional six days to the school calendar in order to compensate for the strike action. In the settlement of this matterthe BNTU agreed to put in six extra days – three at the Easter holidays and another three at the end of the school year. While the three days at the Easter may prove beneficial, the other three days at the end of the school year will be undoubtedly futile as exams would be over and report cards would have been distributed. With several persons commenting on the ineffectual three days added on at the end of the school year, Love News asked Education Minister, Patrick Faber to explain why the ministry agreed to it.
“All I will say on that is that all will know that that was not what the Ministry really wanted. In fact we had as you know proposed to include the six additional days, three at the start of the new calendar year in January, I’m sorry I think it was four in January and two in the Easter break that would have allowed for a the students who are taking PSE and also those who are the CXC level to get that additional instructional time. However you know how the events played out and in fact it did not pan out in that manner and the only other option would have been for us to agree to tagging on a half hour on every day which really and truly in our opinion does not make sense I believe that we might be able to do some saving of instructional time in the Easter break but you’re right we don’t have very much hope that at the end of the school year in June or July or whenever it is that much will be accomplished in that time. We are only hoping that the teachers and the BNTU will encourage the teachers especially to make good productive use of it especially for those who are ending their primary schooling it is a good time for them to use that time to prepare for high school or prepare for wherever life takes them after primary school.”
The other question that we posed to Minister Faber was on the outcome of the matter, asking him if he believes the way the entire situation has set precedence for similar matters in the future.
“I don’t want to re hash the issues and I don’t really want to engage in any kind of back and forth again, all I’ll say is that for us in the Ministry given that these events are new to us under the new education and training act of 2010 and even the changes that we’ve made in the education rules these are new events, the striking, how we make up all that time; while it was done already in the past it was not under these 2010 act and rules so all I will say is that it is a learning lesson for us and the Ministry is assessing things and we will then make decisions to ensure that as we move forward things that happen over that time are not repeated.”
When the Ministry of Education had announced the six days for time compensation in the classrooms would be at the Christmas and Easter holidays, several teachers abided by that order and attended classes while some school added an extra hour each day to their classroom schedule. Minister Faber was asked to comment on the issue of those who already been making up the time now having to put in more days because of the agreement.
“Well I remind people that it is the Ministry of Education in particular the Chief Education Officer that sets the school calendar, whenever it is we fall below the 180 contact days as we clearly have it is that the management of schools need to seek out the Ministry through the Chief Education Officer to come up with how they are going to make up that time. So if it is that schools took it on themselves to do that kind of make up then I don’t want to say that that was not effective because maybe it was to some extent but officially it is the Chief and the managements who should have worked together to determine those days and that was what really happened. Of course it was not supported by the BNTU and you all know the story there.”
The teachers had gone on strike for eleven days in October led by the Belize National Teachers Union in the name of good governance and pay increase.