Letter: Surprised at McDonald’s position on cash grant

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Dear Editor,

I am surprised that APNU/AFC’s Coretta Mc Donald is opposed to the education cash grant distribution that is currently in progress across Guyana.

McDonald seems very confused, as this initiative will benefit thousands of children from all geographic locations in the country. Her position on this matter contradicts earlier held views when she was at the forefront of the teachers’ struggle after the APNU+AFC Government denied them their benefits and other emoluments for three years.

Back in September 2018, in an address to striking teachers who had assembled at the Woolford Avenue office of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), McDonald said the nation’s educators had received more under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration than what they were getting under the Coalition Administration.

She stated that it was under the PPP/C that teachers, for the first time, received additional benefits apart from a salary increase.

She graphically detailed back then, “If we look at what transpired under the PPP Government when they were in power and what is transpiring now…remember we didn’t want the five percent. We made noise about it. But with the five percent we got a whole lot of non-salary benefits.”

She went on to explain, “For the first time in the history of this country, our teachers were able to get clothing allowance, duty free concessions, and allowances for additional qualifications. While the PPP Government was in power — and you know I don’t want to sound political, but we have to make the comparison because of all the untruths they peddling out there…”

This head of GTU went as far as to say that the then David Granger-led administration was playing with teachers’ emotions “to say to us that this thing is just three-and-something years since they in the Government. And this is the party that most of the teachers supported”.

No one knows what transpired in the period after this, but McDonald found herself on the candidate list of the APNU+AFC for the elections which followed. There is a view that she took her 30 pieces of silver for betraying the teachers, whose interest she was supposed to serve. Her shifting of positions relative to the interest of teachers and their students supports this view, as it is the same PPP/C that is investing in the education sector, only this time around, they are restoring a good that the APNU+AFC had obliterated.

Let us look at the details of this rollout. It is that “… the parents of over 172,000 learners, who, for the first time since 2015, will benefit from their “Because We Care Grant.” This resuscitated initiative is to aid in alleviating some of the financial burdens on these parents, many of whom have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the sugar estates, which are only now beginning to return to normal functioning order.

I am compelled to ask again why would Coretta McDonald, this A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Parliamentarian and General-Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), try to discourage teachers from participating in the distribution of the grants? This woman of influence, when her APNU+AFC leaders were short-changing the sector, spoke out, and made a comparison of how the PPP/C was pro-sector, looking out for the teachers. The Cash Grant was of course up and running at the time when the PPP/C was reaching out to the teachers, so she certainly was not against that.

I call on Ms McDonald to be candid and rational.

She needs to be honest and humane, and instead of seeking to impede the work of the Ministry of Education, she should be helping where fostering recovery of many homes is concerned. She shouldn’t shift positions when it comes to matters of teachers and their students to align with her current politics.

Yours truly,
Attiya Baksh