FINAL LAP: BUT incumbent Wilson says re-election bid will be her last term

FINAL LAP: BUT incumbent Wilson says re-election bid will be her last term
Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson yesterday announced her re-election campaign will represent her last term after more than a decade at the helm of the organization.

Two other candidates are challenging the sitting president in the polls today, T.G. Glover Principal Dion Johnson, and Jacqueline McKenzie.

Wilson has held the post since 2008.

“I’m not as young as I used to be and I’ve given a lot of my youth and my family time to the volunteer teachers,” she said.

“So, in this next term, which is three years, I don’t know if you’ve passed one Andrew Bedford Avenue, Stapledon Gardens, where our office is, we’re building a multimillion-dollar complex there.

“So, I want to ensure that that’s completed at least within the next two or three months,” Wilson said.

Over the past two weeks, Wilson says her team of 15 has been hard at work on the ground meeting BUT members and traveling to various Family Islands to reunite with others and hear their concerns.

She says that among the pressing teacher shortage issue, one of her other main areas of focus is making sure teachers stationed on family islands are given reasonable budgets for living expenses.

“Teacher shortages,” she continued.

“That’s definitely a top priority. I must say that based on our negotiations, they were concerned about the high rent in the various islands, especially in Abaco, Eleuthera, and Exuma for example.

“But we were able to successfully negotiate increases in the rental allowances for teachers so they were pleased with that. So rent teacher shortages, those were definitely two matters that were concerning for our members.”

Wilson said her team has covered most of the islands in the northern Bahamas but expects to visit the southern islands after a successful win.

Running against the longstanding BUT President, Johnson says he believes it’s time for a change. He told Eyewitness News he plans to establish a teacher service commission to relieve the bottleneck situation at the Public Service Commission if he makes it out on top.

He says that negotiating for higher salaries for teachers is also on his agenda seeing that teachers are required to decorate their classrooms and acquire many of their tools and resources out-of-pocket.

Johnson also addressed how he plans to tackle technical limitations that came about as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Well, the greatest thing that can happen as it relates to trying to bring our educational system back up to par is a relationship-building opportunity between the government the Bahamas Union of Teachers, parents, and all community stakeholders because teachers alone cannot teach that child,” he said.

“You have students going in grade three, four, five, six that were not being educated for the last two years and so they’re basically starting out from square one.

Johnson said: “We already had an average of a D and that’s without the backdrop of a Covid-19 and without the backdrop of a hurricane Dorian and so all it’s going to take is a meeting of the stakeholders to ensure the best product for the students and it will help for us to reach a better future.”

BUT elections will take place on Thursday with polling stations at BTVI, The Stadium, BPSU, and the Secretariat.