NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said yesterday that the Ministry of Education failed to communicate and consult with the union regarding the reopening of schools on Monday.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) advised that all government schools will reopen for instruction on Monday.
The ministry also advised that all school-based staff (i.e. teachers, school administrators and support staff) including those posted on New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma, are expected to report to their school campus unless otherwise permitted by their principal.
However, Wilson noted that the announcement came at the “ninth hour”.
“I’m convinced that the Ministry of Education has decided that they will not adhere to the industrial agreement, which promotes goodwill and harmony,” she told Eyewitness News.
“They’ve refused to follow agreed procedures and they negate the fact that they must consult.
“The Bahamas Union of Teachers simply wants the Ministry of Education officials to communicate and to consult.
“Consultation means joint examining and discussion [of] problems and concerns of both the employer and the union.”
Wilson noted that while teachers are expected to return to schools, their expectations of their employers are not being met.
“What about teachers’ expectations from their employer for updated, timely information; for a safe, clean, health[y] working environment; for adequate supplies, material and equipment to meet the needs of our students, especially in this COVID-19 pandemic; for clear COVID-19 protocols and standards for schools?”
The BUT president pointed to the new strain of the coronavirus, which has been detected in the United Kingdom, Canada and now the United States, and expressed concern that children are more susceptible to being infected and that the transmission rate of the new strain is reportedly high.
She further questioned whether internet services or access to the internet has been updated at all schools; when teachers will receive the laptops allegedly promised; and what changes are being made to the curriculum that is different from where it started in March 2020.
She also questioned whether officials have considered the 14-day period after the Christmas holiday to see if COVID-19 numbers will increase.
“I say that teachers have endured much and we have exercised much restraint in 2020 but I will remind the MOE that teachers have rights — rights that we will not hesitate to exercise,” Wilson added.
“So, I admonish the Ministry of Education to follow the rules of the agreement.
“If you do not follow the rules, then we will have no other choice but to exercise our rights to ensure that teachers and students are protected in the workplace and the learning environment.”
Students on the islands of New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma will not report to a school site but will log in to their school via the Department of Education’s virtual learning platform.
Students on the other islands will report to their school campus for face-to-face instruction.