GTU strike action: ‘We will not allow the system to be crushed’ – Education Minister

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Education Minister Nicolette Henry and Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson at today’s meeting

Despite planned strike action by the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) which is expected to see a large number of teacher’s around the country protesting Government for a 40 per cent increase in their salaries, Education Minister Nicolette Henry is urging parents to “send out” their children to school on Monday as all regions, according to her, are ready to being the new school term.

According to Minister Henry, the contingency plan launched by the Ministry to avoid the Education Sector being affected due to the protest action, will see retired and newly trained teachers of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) taking the place of the protesting teachers.

She detailed that some 350 teachers have been recruited; with 240 of those being CPCE trainees.

A section of the gathering 

Henry said to the surprisingly small gathering of teachers and parents in the compound of Queen’s College, Camp Street, Georgetown on Tuesday, “Parents are encouraged not to keep children at home…we will not allow the system to be crushed…our plan (contingency plan) has been activated”.

The Minister noted that “we love our teachers” while in the same breath adding that the government cannot consider a 40 per cent increase as it is not feasible since there has been no substantial growth in this “developing country”.

She said that in addition to the increase, other demands put forward by GTU, including the granting of duty-free concessions to members of the Union could not be entertained by the Education Ministry.

However, Henry reasoned though that her Ministry is hoping for a resolution to this issue in the near future.

“We have to continue to work even in this most difficult situation…so we put into place this contingency plan to ensure that the effects of the strike are not major…it is our aim to ensure that on the 3rd of September, we would be able to have our children out in their classrooms; however we are hoping for this matter to be resolved in the future”, Henry explained.

Backing up the sentiments shared by the Minster, Chief Education Officer (CEO), Marcel Hutson said that the Ministry is aiming to ensure that a “damper is not put on the progressing of our schools”.

He noted that the pending strike action by the teachers does not deter the Ministry from its responsibility; that is to ensure that the nation’s children continue to be delivered out of the state of ignorance.

Angered at the words of the Minister and the CEO, one parent stated that she felt insulted that the Ministry is even considering putting the education of Guyana’s children into the hands of amateurs and ill-prepared teachers.

According to the parent, the Ministry has failed to assure them (all parents) of the effectiveness of the contingency plan which will not be accepted.

Another parent questioned the cost of recruiting the teachers in the contingency plan compared to the increase being demanded by the Union.

Even as the Ministry is set to go ahead with the said plan, the Union is threatening to prolong the strike forcing Government to return to the negotiation table.

According to GTU’s President Mark Lyte, the Union is even willing to accept a lower offer than the 40 per cent,however, this offer has to remain in the double digits.

On Monday last, scores of teachers and members of GTU staged a protest in front of the Ministry of the Presidency, calling for salaries to be increased.

GTU has rejected Government’s request for teachers to agree to a debauching payoff of $200 million for 2018 to 2019.

Lyte said the Union similarly rejected the $700 million cap that was placed on salary increases which was for 2018 only. (Kizzy Coleman)

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