With the ability to mobilize thousands of Belizeans for protests and strikes, the Belize National Teachers Union has long since established itself as a force that no Government administration of the day can ignore. They have rightfully earned a reputation as an activist union that is not only concerned about the welfare of the teachers but also public affairs, with an emphasis on matters of good governance, transparency and accountability.
Possibly the biggest success that the BNTU can boast to date is their 11-day protests from October 2016, which forced the Prime Minister to agree its demands for the Senate Hearings on Immigration, the signing of the UNCAC, the accession to the 13th Senator, and the reactivation of the Integrity Commission.
But, the teachers union has a long history, 49 years in fact, and on July 20th, they will celebrate their 50th Anniversary. And, the union is going to engage in a series of activities, spanning several months, to commemorate that milestone. They held the first of those activities today, and they invited the press to their Belize City headquarters. 7News stopped by today to find out how the teachers paid respect to their union's legacy, and here's what a few of the speakers had to say at a short ceremony:
Ruth Shoman, National Secretary
"Today I am here to honor those who have so bravely taken on the leadership over the years. It is not an easy task, because those who have the courage and have had the courage and continue to do so have found themselves in positions where their families, their friends and themselves come under constant attack and so it is a very difficult position to be in and for that we cannot ever forget those who have bravely stood and it didn't matter who it was against, because we are always accused of being on this side and the other side when at the end we are only on justice side."
Luke Palacio, 1st VP, BNTU
"In 2016, 11 days of strike action in this country, 11 days with full support from our members, full support from the Belizean public and when the government threatened and a letter was sent to school managers to say deduct from these teachers salary, we took them to court and we were victorious because we were fighting for this nation and we will continue to fight for this nation my brothers and sisters."
Hon. Elena Smith, President, BNTU
"And you've heard our history. You've heard the wonderful things that this union has achieved not just for teachers, but for our nation on a whole. Our country continues to depend on us. The first group we hear - teachers. What did the teachers say? What did teachers do? Where is BNTU? When will BNTU say something. That's the kind of influence that we have and we must never give up such an influence. So I want to thank you so very much for sharing with us today, for heling us to start off - we are just starting off our celebrations."