Ministry of Education removes Teachers Union from scholarship, duty free concession process; GTU so far silent

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 September 2021, 16:03 by Denis Chabrol

The Ministry of Education on Tuesday announced that it has taken over the management of the scholarship programme and award of duty free concessions from the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), in response to what the  ministry says are threats against teachers who have not participated in the protests.

“The Government of Guyana is hereby reverting these two programs to the Ministry of Education. Hereon the Ministry of Education shall conduct and manage this program as obtains in other Government agencies with similar benefits,” the Ministry of Education said in a statement.

The GTU President Mark Lyte and General Secretary Coretta Mc Donald did not immediately answer calls or respond to messages seeking a reaction to the Ministry of Education’s decision. A protest planned for Tuesday was not held. The GTU earlier this week had encouraged teachers to return to their classrooms on Monday while executives planned for a resumption of protests on Tuesday based on a schedule that should have been posted on its Facebook page.

The Ministry of Education stated that the scholarships and duty free concessions would still be awarded to teachers but the GTU would not be involved. “To be clear, these benefits will continue to be granted to teachers. Our teachers will still be able to access the scholarships and duty-free concessions at the stated amount per year. Our teachers will continue to benefit from these programs, thus realizing the true intent of the program, but in an organized, fair and transparent manner,” the Education Ministry said.

Under an October, 2018 agreement, the GTU and the Ministry of Education had agreed that they would jointly decide which teachers would be granted 100  duty-free vehicle concessions for certain senior teachers and 50 scholarships to study Science and Technical Education at the University of Guyana (UG).

But the Ministry of Education indicated that the award of the scholarships and grant of concessions were being used as weapons against teachers who have been refusing to participate in protests against the COVID-19 measures that require teachers to be vaccinated or submit a weekly PCR negative test.

“These benefits were meant to serve teachers. Not to attack them. Not to discriminate against them,” the Ministry of Education said. “Lately, the complaints have elevated from the mismanagement of the system by the Union to the benefits being used as weapons to threaten teachers to participate in activities organized by the GTU, failing which, members are informed openly and subtly that they will not be a recipient or continuing recipient of a scholarship nor of a duty-free concession. These reports have come from teachers who are duly qualified to receive these benefits. These reports cannot be ignored,” the Ministry added.

The decision by the Ministry of Education comes just days after the GTU had already denied those accusations.

The GTU last week held three days of protests in Georgetown and other parts of the country to pressure government into relaxing the COVID measures and agreeing to the payment of outstanding monies.

Mr. Lyte earlier Tuesday again called on the Ministry of Education to open talks with the GTU to address its concerns. The GTU President this week urged teachers to cease describing their protests as a “strike” and that caution was days later followed by Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton labeling the strike illegal as there was no grievance.

Prime Minister Mark Phillips and Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira assailed the GTU, opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) politicians and a few mainly women teachers for hurling insults at Minister of Education Priya Manickchand by loosely using the term “rape.” “It is disappointing that some sections of society may find it entertaining to target the Minister of Education with such distasteful messages,” Retired Brigadier Phillips said.

“How can the leaders of the Guyana Teachers Union, an organization comprised overwhelmingly by women, and, who teach girls in our schools, representing 50% of the school population, support songs and chants which surreptitiously mock the pervasive crime of rape? How can parents trust these teachers with their daughters?,” Ms Teixeira queried.  She further described the industrial action as “attempted protests.”