Abaco teachers stage sick-out


TEACHERS in Abaco staged a sick-out yesterday to protest the continuing teacher shortage on the island a month after the Ministry of Education promised to address the problem.

About 18 teachers from Patrick J Bethel High School participated in the action, this newspaper was told.

Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson, in a statement on the issue, said it is ridiculous that teachers are still waiting on unfulfilled promises made by the Ministry of Education a month ago.

“It’s incredulous, it’s unbelievable that the Minister is still highlighting the fact that Patrick J Bethel High School in Abaco still has a teacher shortage when a PTA meeting was held on February 2, 2022 in Abaco, and the Minister promised that teachers would be sent,” Mrs Wilson said. “We are still awaiting those teachers. Patrick J Bethel needs four English teachers, four mathematics teachers, two social studies teachers, two physical education teachers and a biology teacher.”

She said it is “absurd” that students who still don’t have enough teachers will be expected to write the BJC and BGCSE national examinations next month. She said that the sick-out was the teachers’ way of making their demands heard as they are “sick and tired” of just promises and need more teachers on the island.

“Today, Patrick J Bethel teachers took a stand. 95 percent of the teachers at Patrick J Bethel High called in today because they are burnt out, they are sick and tired of promises, they are overworked, and they are overwhelmed,” Mrs Wilson said. “So, the Bahamas Union of Teachers expects for the teachers that were promised over a month ago for Patrick J Bethel High School in Abaco to be sent there. And by the way, don’t forget J A Pinder Primary School in Sandy Point, Abaco, they are also in need of teachers.”

When contacted for comment, Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said he received reports from the district superintendent in Abaco that 18 of the 23 teachers at Patrick J Bethel did not report to work yesterday. However, Mr Taylor said that his ministry was unaware of this sick-out beforehand despite what he calls established protocol on industrial action.

“We’ve never received any grievance based on the industrial agreement,” Mr Taylor said. “The formula for before any kind of industrial action is taken is that you’re supposed to put out a letter outlining what your grievances are, giving the principal a chance to address the matter and in that same period of time if the principal is unable to address those issues, then it’s escalated.”

He said the ministry is trying to address the teacher shortage.

“We know that we do have some teacher shortages at that institution. There are a number of teachers that we are seeking to place there,” he said.

He said the teacher shortage is due in part to the housing crisis in Abaco as a result of Hurricane Dorian. The Ministry of Education is currently undergoing a vetting process for teachers who were graduated from UB in 2021 to be deployed to Abaco as Mrs Wilson suggested. He said the ministry is also lining up geographical posting allowances for the teachers potentially being sent to Abaco and disagreed with Mrs Wilson’s sentiment that these teachers be immediately deployed virtually. He said the Ministry of Education prefers to get teachers physically on the island as soon as possible to fully resume face-to-face learning.

However, Mr Taylor was unable to give a firm date as to when those teachers would arrive on Abaco.

“As soon as all of their clearances are made (for teachers). So, we’ve identified teachers, but now we are in the process of having some or all of these things concluded (vetting, geographical posting allowance) so we can send them down. So, it’s taking a while because we have been trying to work on this for some time, but this system is also multi-agency, so it has taken a while. Our hopes are any day now, but I can’t give you a specific date.”


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