Day one of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) nationwide strike has commenced but a number of teachers across the country have reported for duty and are teaching according to a senior official attached to the Ministry of Education.
However, the official did indicate that the situation can change as the day progresses. The official added that based on reports reaching the Ministry, just a handful of schools closed their doors and most teachers reported for duty.
Currently, there are about 150 persons picketing outside of the Ministry of Education’s Brickdam Headquarters. The GTU has about 10,000 members.
On Tuesday, the GTU issued a notice to teachers entitled “Boots on de ground”, calling for them to protest in front of the Education Ministry’s Brickdam office on September 8, 9, and 10. The strike is a result of the Union’s dissatisfaction with the reopening of schools and the government’s vaccination policies.
When contacted on Wednesday morning, Education Minister Priya Manickchand said they are in the process of monitoring the situation as they gather reports on which schools are opened and which are not. However, the Minister said she cannot give a definitive answer as to how much teachers reported for duty and the number of schools that were closed.
She did promise to provide those figures later in the day.
In a statement late last night, the Education Ministry described the GTU’s call or teachers to strike as uncaring and unconscionable, and has condemned the action as irresponsible “and not reflective of the realities of the present state of the COVID-19 pandemic nor the needs of the nation’s children”.
It noted that teachers have been accorded the status of a most valuable resource, and teachers were paid their full salary and benefits throughout the 17 months.
According to the Education Ministry, there were no salary cuts nor layoffs as in so many other countries.
“Vaccination of teachers is not mandatory and there are clear guidelines issued for those who do not want to be inoculated – all of this to keep teachers, their families, and our children safe. The Government of Guyana has spared no effort to make vaccines available to every member of the public and return the country to a state of normalcy. Multiple types and brands of vaccines are still available and easily accessible to all Guyanese,” the Ministry said.
It added that it was adamant that there was no grievance/basis for strike action and urged all teachers, parents, and administrators not to fall prey to the “political machinations of Coretta McDonald and the small cabal of self-serving individuals who have hijacked the Guyana Teachers Union. The Ministry reminds all that teachers who do not work do not get paid.”
The Ministry also called upon the teachers to reject the “unconscionable call of the GTU, Coretta McDonald, and her political cohorts in favour of serving the children of our nation and advancing their education and socialisation as we exit this pandemic and reclaim our lives.”