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‘Allow Coretta Mc Donald to represent teachers’- GTU President ; Union suspends protests, appeals for talks with Education Ministry

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 September 2021, 7:14 by Denis Chabrol

GTUC General Secretary, Coretta Mc Donald.

The President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte on Friday appealed to the Guyana government to allow the union’s General Secretary, Coretta Mc Donald to represent teachers instead of using her political allegiance as a barrier.

“We know that the General Secretary sits on the Opposition bench in Parliament, but like other union leaders who sit in parliament, she must be allowed to represent the members of GTU the way she has been over the years,” Mr. Lyte said.

This call was issued against the background of the GTU announcing the suspension of its protest against  the COVID vaccination measures and outstanding financial matters from Monday, September 20, 2021.

“We believe our message has resounded through Guyana and the world. We will take a break from Monday, September 20,2021. This break would be to evaluate our approach on these matters and strategise for a more impactful advance of the cause,” Mr. Lyte said.  The GTU President  hoped that “during this break period” the Ministry of Education would use the opportunity to engage GTU in a “meaningful way to address our concerns.” Although the GTU had promised teachers that they would have mobilised for intensified protests this week, that was not the case. A promised schedule  had not been provided.

“The GTU wishes to inform the general public that we remain committed to working with Minister Manickchand and her team at MoE (Ministry of Education) to advance the interest of our teachers,” the union said in rejecting what it regarded as an insulting jingle to Ms. Manickchand.

For decades, a top official of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) has always been a parliamentarian for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of which he is a leading member.

Ms. Mc Donald is the Shadow Education Minister for the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform-led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC).  The Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has repeatedly singled out the GTU General Secretary and has accused her and others of hijacking the union for political motives , and has strongly suggested that no talks would be held with her at the helm.

Priya Manickchand

But the GTU President said the “attack” was unwarranted and he asked that teachers of all political, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds be represented by their Union. “Moving forward, we ask that our General Secretary be allowed to do her work for the educators of this nation and that the attack cease now,” he said. Mr. Lyte said the time has come for Guyana to move past race nd politics in Guyana. “Let the healing begin with teachers, the educators of this nation,” he said.

At a virtual meeting with teachers almost one week ago, the GTU President had pointed his fingers at  GTU Branch Executives in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) for not backing the three-day protest against the COVID-19 vaccination measures. “In Region Two, some of the Branch officials were not taking an active stand. All of a sudden, they become political; all of a sudden and I’m disappointed but I have learnt from this experience. We must be able to call a spade a spade. This is not anything personal with any political party or individual. This is about our teachers, this is about our educators who are being unfairly treated,” he had said.

The GTU General Secretary is also on record as recognising that it would be virtually impossible to get teachers in certain areas to heed a strike call. “We could not get all of our colleagues to join us because we know that in some areas they are highly politicised and we know the kind of threats and the kind of harm that could be meted out.”

Meanwhile,  the GTU on Friday dissociated itself from a recent jingle, which surfaced on social media a few days ago, hurling insults at Education Minister Manickchand. “On this basis, the GTU, as a professional body wishes to disassociate itself from the recent jingle which hurls derogatory remarks at the sitting Minister of Education.

The GTU hinted that the jingle might have been emanated from political opponents of the government. “We are of the view that political figures have taken this to another level,” the GTU said.

The APNU+AFC has endorsed the teachers’ protest. City Mayor Ubraj Naraine, who is associated with the coalition, has since condemned those remarks against the Education Minister.