‘Govt will work to find common ground with GTU’ – Min. Harmon

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─ Contingency plan being implemented

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that the government is committed to working with the union to get the teachers back in the classroom.

“We believe that the teachers’ place is in the classroom and therefore we will have to work with the union to find a common ground so that we can get our teachers back into the classroom. No one benefits from arguing in the streets. We cannot advance the process by speaking at each other; we need to speak to each other,” the State Minister said on the sideline of the GAWU sugar seminar at Grand Coastal Inn today.

Minister Harmon also restated the government’s support for the nation’s educators.

“We consider our teachers to be an important asset in this country; they train our children; they make young people into caring and responsible adults.”

On the second day of the new term, reports from the regions indicated that most of the schools remain open and the Ministry of Education’s contingency plan is being implemented.

Contingency plan implemented

The MOE on Monday night reported that about 10 percent of public school teachers across the country went on strike but steps were being taken to tap into a database of 2,500 persons to hire them temporarily to teach students in affected schools.

The 2,500 persons on standby include retired teachers, volunteers, trainees and applicants to the Teaching Service Commission.

Regional Education Officer (REdO) Nigel Richards, Region One (Barima-Waini), told the Department of Public Information (DPI), “We had some issues regarding the attendance of the teachers at the Whitewater Nursery school, however, the department has visited and put systems in place to accommodate those in the institute.”

Over in Region Six, East Berbice-Corentyne, several schools registered a full complement of staff and students.  At Auchlyne Primary School each class from Grades One to Five had a full turnout and students and teachers were present and ready to begin work. A number of Secondary Schools in the Lower and Upper Corentyne area also had a large number of teachers who turned out to work.

Meanwhile, the Regional Education Department is working to deploy substitute teachers across Region Six to fill the void of those participating in the strike action. Regional Education Officer, Volika Jaikishun highlighted that officers are currently on the ground gathering information.

She noted the major focus is to ensure schools remain open and students are being taught and do not have to return home. On Monday, several schools in the region had already benefitted from substitute teachers who assisted in the orientation process for new students as well teaching.

In Region Seven, government officials said that there is improvement within the region regarding the teachers’ turnout.

In Linden, Region 10, the ministry’s contingency plan gained momentum as the number of substitute teachers, were increased, at the various Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools. Some schools, such as the Amelia’s Ward Primary School, had up to six substitute teachers; three trainees and three volunteers.

Regma Primary School, Mackenzie High School, Mackenzie Primary School, Watooka Nursery School, West Watooka Nursery School, Coomacka Primary School, One Mile Primary School and the St Aiden’s Primary School were among other institutions where substitute teachers were dispatched.

One of the teachers attached to Mackenzie High School, who showed up for duty was Douglas Gittens. He believes the government, as promised by President Granger, will soon solve the issue amicably.

Gittens agrees that teachers deserve an increase in their wages but noted that the union’s demand will cripple the economy. “I feel teachers do deserve a raise in salary, but some of the things they [GTU] are requesting, are not possible at this point.  We have to look at factors like the balance of trade in a country, an increase like this would cripple an economy, this is not a fair demand on a relatively new government, we have to be patient.”

Neola Damon, Vanessa Braithwaite and Nafeeza Yayah-Sakur