BUT president Belinda Wilson.
BAHAMAS Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson has accused education officials of not communicating about today’s reopening of schools.
In a press release issued by the Ministry of Education on Thursday, officials announced that public schools will resume instruction today and that teachers are to report to work.
In response, Mrs Wilson accused the ministry of not adhering to both parties’ industrial agreement and said her members will “not hesitate” to exercise their rights if needed.
“I am convinced that the Ministry of Education has decided that they will not adhere to the industrial agreement which promotes industrial goodwill and harmony,” she said in a voice note released shortly after the ministry’s statement.
“They have refused to follow agreed procedures and they negate the fact that they must consult. At the ninth hour, a press release was sent out stating that teachers are expected to return to school on Monday.”
She said the union only wants education officials to communicate and consult, adding teachers have expectations of their employer, such as timely information and a safe, clean working environment.
She referred to the “concerning” new strain of coronavirus that was spreading around the world which is said to be more contagious and which children may be more susceptible to catching.
She said BUT wants to know if internet services and access have been updated at all schools, she questioned where are the laptops for teachers and if any changes had been made to school curriculum since March 2020 when school closures were first announced due to COVID-19.
She also asked: “Did the Ministry of Health give the all-clear for schools to open, based on what metrics? Based on what information? What about the 14-day incubation period after the Christmas holiday to see if COVID-19 numbers will increase?”
She said teachers have endured a lot and exercised much restraint in 2020, but added teachers have “rights” they will “not hesitate” to exercise if the Ministry of Education does not adhere to its industrial agreement.
“If you do not follow the rules, then we will have no other choice but to exercise our rights to ensure that teachers and students are protected in the workplace and the learning environment.”
In its statement, the Ministry of Education said all government schools will reopen for instruction today, however students on four islands, including New Providence will not report to school yet for face-to-face instruction.
“Due to the current Emergency Powers Orders, students on the islands of New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma will not report to a school site, but will log in to their school via the Department of Education’s virtual learning platform to attend school virtually. Students on the other islands will report to their school campus for face-to-face instruction,” a press release from the Ministry of Education said.
“All school-based staff (i e teachers, school administrators and support staff) including those posted on the islands of New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma, are expected to report to their school campus unless otherwise permitted by their principal.”
In December, Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd told reporters it was possible face-to-face learning in public schools would resume in February. At the time, he said his ministry is working with the Ministry of Health to chart the way forward.