“It’s time for action”, says Bahamas Union of Teachers
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Several teachers called out of work yesterday in solidarity with other members of the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) who continue to be impacted by COVID-19.
The action came as national examinations, including BJC and BGCSE’s, were set to resume following months-long delays due to the increase in cases during the ongoing second wave.
Education Director Marcellus Taylor advised Eyewitness News yesterday morning that there was no known interruption to the exams and they were “running smoothly”.
BUT President Belinda Wilson made the call to action to teachers in a voice note on Sunday night.
Wilson noted the union had taken an unofficial poll and the majority of its members voted for action.
Members were instructed to call in by 9:30am to advise their superiors they would not attend work.
“Use one of your six call-in days and remain at home,” Wilson said in the voice note.
“You are calling in to support teachers who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“You are calling in to support your colleagues and their families who have lost loved ones due to COVID.
“You are calling in to support Family Island teachers who are stranded here in New Providence, Grand Bahama and other Family Islands.
“You are calling to support teachers, who have to pay for their own COVID-19 tests.
“You are calling in to support teachers who must quarantine for 14-days, through no fault of theirs, but their salaries will be cut.
“You are calling in to support teachers with comorbidities, underlying issues, and those vulnerable groups.
“You are calling in to support teachers who have taken care of the nation’s children for many, many years, but now they have no one to keep their children.”
Wilson advised that teachers at CI Gibson, DW Davis, Columbus Primary, CH Reeves, Stapleton School, Program SHORE, Sybill Strachan Primary, the School for the Blind, R N Gomez, and North Long Island High have all been impacted in some way due to the pandemic.
She advised her members that the action was to demand that their workspace and environment is safe, healthy and clean.
“You are calling in because you want six feet distancing between yourselves and the students and some protective barrier or plexiglass around your work station,” Wilson said.
“You are calling in because you need the right tools to teach your students: laptop, Internet connectivity.
“You are calling in to support the union’s position on work from home policy. You are calling in because teachers in The Bahamas lives matter.”
In a statement Sunday, the Ministry of Education insisted schools were safe and said assertions to the contrary were designed to “create public panic among teachers, students and parents, in pursuit of the BUT president’s selfish goal of derailing the national examinations”.
“The Ministry is deeply aggrieved by the fact that the BUT president would seek to deprive children of this vital opportunity, and while this behavior is not unexpected, it is particularly regrettable that such action would be taken at a time when we should all be pulling together as a country to advance national development in the midst of the worldwide COVID crisis,” read the statement.
According to the statement, while there have been reported cases of COVID-19 infections at a few schools, those premises were vacated, sanitized in accordance with all protocols and have been made safe.
The ministry said the Ministry of Health and Department of Environmental Health has mandated clear procedures and protocols for addressing cases and contacts of cases that have been designed to “preserve both individual and public health and safety”.
The ministry also assured that the necessary personal protective equipment, cleaners, sanitizers are in place at all government schools as required and regular cleaning and proper sanitization has been undertaken.
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd has said that if for any reason the exams are again interrupted before its completion in October “they will be canceled”.