Hon. Faber Says, Stay In School

As we reported on Monday, the Belize National Teachers Union plans to start a series of awareness raising rallies to get its membership more actively engaged on a whole host of issues. The first one is set for tomorrow in Orange Walk, which usually means a holiday for school children there.

And that's why the Ministry of Education stepped in today, to say "not so fast." The Ministry issued a release this morning saying that no communication about these rallies or the time off has been made to the Chief Education Officer or anyone in the Ministry of Education. The release says quote,

"The Ministry expresses strong concern…on the inconvenience to families, unnecessary disruption of classes, and other negative effects on learning by our children and young people that (taking) additional non-school days will cause." End quote. It adds that such rallies and similar events should be planned on weekends when it would not affect school children. The release ends with the reminder that no permission has been sought and none granted.

Well, the union struck back with its own release a few hours after that. It says that the School Managements have been informed and that is all that is required. It adds that the rallies will go on tomorrow and on the following Friday. It urges union members to stand firm. So what does Education Minister Faber have to say about that? We asked him this afternoon at his Belize City office:..

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"Because of course of a number of issues but especially because of the rains, we've lost a lot of valuable time in the classroom and I am sure that the teachers will agree to this. So for something like this to be the reason why would call off school is really disappointing and unfortunate. I don't see any reason and this is a personal view that I've had for so long; why these meetings or these rallies for that matter, in this case they've made the clear indication that this is not a meeting, it is a rally - why can't it be done on a Friday or a non-school day if it is they want to make a point and to demonstrate - if they really are wanting to show that concern for the students and for our education system."

"I appeal to them and like you've said, they've indicated it will go on and so I don't know that my appeal will necessarily change their mind, but I have to make that appeal, not only on the part of the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports, but also on the behalf of the parents and of the managements and of the wider education stakeholders for them to be reasonable and for them to understand that this is not a time that we can afford to be missing classes."

Jules Vasquez
"Will those teachers who participate receive full pay?"

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"I don't want to get into saying out there that there is a penalty. They have indicated in fact that it is an industrial action and of course there is a way to deal with that, but I am not going to go on the record to issue any threat. At this point in time I will say that I and my ministry want to be as amicable as possible. We believe that the unions and its membership have a right to make its point and to even demonstrate and rally, but there is a responsible way of doing that and that is really where we take issue with what they are doing."

"I want to make is absolutely clear as well to those who might be testing the ministry that we are not sitting on our hands and we will not sit by idly either and watch an attempt be made to topple our efforts in education; topple the delivery of that quality education which we and our stakeholders seek on a daily basis, so I am not going to threaten anybody. I am not going to say that we are necessary going to jump at anything here, we are going to take out time and be very deliberate in our decision making, but while we do that I make the appeal to the teachers, but especially to the union leaders to be reasonable in light of all that is happening and especially in light of the fact that we've lost so much valuable class time already."

We'll have coverage of tomorrow's rally in tomorrow night's newscast.

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