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Those with nothing to offer filling public space – Manickchand tells teachers at launch of welfare programme

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 September 2021, 17:36 by Denis Chabrol

Minister of Education Priya Manickchand on Wednesday urged teachers to be wary of those who do not have anything to offer them other than criticising initiatives, even as she announced a welfare package of discounts, insurance, health initiatives, continuing training and annual awards.

She said the Ministry of Education has provided each COVID-19 positive teacher with a healthy-care kit, arranged for teachers to go to specific locations to get second dose Sputnik V vaccines despite the shortage; laptops, tablets and other devices and free Internet access to assist teachers to work virtually. “We don’t talk about some of these things and we leave space for people, who have nothing else to offer, to take away from it,” the Minister told attendees.

Addressing the launch of the welfare initiative at the Arthur Chung Conference, she said it had nothing to do with the industrial action that has been staged by the Guyana Teachers Union as preparations had started from as far back as February, 2021. “This is not a response. This is a genuine interest in checking to see what we can do for you so that you can do your work when you get into the classroom and you’ll see much, much more of that,” she said.

The Minister of Education announced that a new Inspectorate system has been designed, but it would no longer have the stigma of an enforcement mechanism.

She pledged to the teachers that “we will support your professional development fully; you have my promise on that. We will hold your hand through any obstacles you believe you have on the classroom,” she said.  Ms. Manickchand said the Education Ministry would address the shortage of resources such as the purchase of all primary school textbooks, the first time in three years.

The Education Minister appeared to leave the door slightly open to engaging with the Guyana Teachers; Union (GTU), despite recent concerns that that bargaining agent was engaging in political action against the COVID-19 measures. “We will work with anyone, any stakeholder. By now, you must realise I don’t take things personally at all. We will work with any stakeholder who wants to see the sector do better but we will not let petulance, personal interest, political intervention stop us from what we have to do because our job is too important. Children’s lives, future, this nation depends on us,” she said.

Education Specialist, Olato Sam, who is spearheading the teachers welfare initiative, said more than 150 entities have already signed up to work along with the Education Ministry.  He said there would be a teacher benevolence fund to provide support teachers who experience certain hardships. “This teachers welfare and benefits programme was devised. The Ministry of Education has embraced the concept that the welfare of our teachers needs concerted attention and will, therefore, when addressed, pay dividends in relation to their output,” she said.

The GTU has not commented so far on this initiative but has already accused the  Ministry of Education of engaging in union busting by taking away responsibility for the scholarship and duty-free concessions. The Ministry of Education has been accused by the GTU of peddling “blatant lies” that the scholarship and concessions have been weaponised against those who have refused to engage in industrial action.