APPEARING in the letter columns of the September 7th, 2018 edition of the Guyana Chronicle was a letter purportedly written by one Ms Elizabeth Williams.
The letter comprised the same contents and tone of paid government propagandists over the last few days on social media platforms, to wit, that I had said to teachers “if you don’t like your salary, quit.”
In what was clearly an organised but colossally failed attempt to distract attention from the nationwide teachers strike, government bloggers and Ms. Williams resurrected an article dated 31st May, 2012 and published in the Kaieteur News, whose publication was admittedly an error and which said article had been withdrawn.
Like those bloggers, all Ms Williams’ accusations and assertions are based on that said article.
It has already been widely circulated on those same social media platforms that the article, which was being used as gospel, was withdrawn and an apology issued to me for its contents. I copy here in its entirety, the subsequent Kaieteur News article dated the 1st day of June 2012, apologising to me. I do this for the benefit of your readers.
“On Thursday, March 31, 2012, this publication carried a story with a headline “IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE SALARY, QUIT – MANICKCHAND.”
The story gave the distinct impression that teachers at a consultation in Berbice said en masse that they did not want the automatic promotion policy to continue, as they were not being paid for the remedial classes and that the Minister of Education had said to teachers that if they do not want to do the remedial classes for students as a result of the automatic promotion policy, then they should quit the profession.
We are satisfied that the story inadvertently misrepresented the views of both the teachers as well as the then Minister of Education.
It is true that a teacher raised the issue of payment for the remediation classes, citing the needs of families of teachers. The minister perceived that as one of the reasons the programme was not as successful as it was envisioned to be and duly recorded the reason.
It is also true that during the course of the day, the minister did indeed have an inspirational talk with teachers, which had absolutely nothing to do with automatic promotion and/or remediation classes, where she praised teachers for being much more than teachers every day, discussed with teachers their almost sacred duty to mould minds and emphasised that what teachers do today will determine what Guyana looks like tomorrow.
It was during this session that the minister indicated that the ministry had no space for the handful of teachers who are comfortable with turning up to school late every day, putting their heads on a desk, not teaching and at the end of the day, saying that salaries were not enough, while still receiving those salaries.
We apologise to the minister and to the teachers for any confusion, hurt and/or strained relations that our story would have unintentionally caused.”
In other words, Mr Editor, I simply did not say what the letter writer alleges I had said.
I would be happy to sit down with Ms Williams, if she exists, and answer any and all questions she may have about what was done under and by the PPP/C Government for teachers and the education system as a whole, what our plans were, what we think are remaining gaps and how we plan to fix those. I would be happy to hear from her too about what she proposes.
In the meantime, I doubt that teachers and the GTU and/or parents and children have forgotten and/or will be distracted from the fact that our teachers were forced to strike and march the streets and dams and mountains of the nation and sing and chant and protest against the government to force the said government to treat with them respectfully and fairly. I doubt they have forgotten that it is the Minister of Labour of this government that said teachers are “selfish” and “uncaring,” or that the President after he appointed a Task Force, close to three years after the last multi- year agreement expired, to address the issue of teachers’ salary and conditions of work, ignored the recommendations of the Task Force.
Priya Manickchand, M.P.
Former Minister of Education.