President hints at salary increases, other benefits for teachers
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President Dr. Irfaan Ali addressing residents of Dartmouth, Essequibo
President Dr. Irfaan Ali addressing residents of Dartmouth, Essequibo

THE Government of Guyana is currently examining a holistic menu of measures to improve the lives of teachers all across the country. This was the indication given by President Dr. Irfaan Ali during a massive Cabinet outreach in Region Two, Pomeroon-Supenaam, where he hinted that these measures could include, but are not limited to salary increases.

“It’s not only about salaries, it’s about other important aspects of lives critical to you,” President Ali told the residents of Dartmouth, Essequibo, as he made specific reference to the possibility of teachers benefitting from increased scholarship opportunities.

As it is, the government’s ground-breaking 20,000 scholarships programme encompassed special rewards for public school teachers who are able to successfully complete the programmes being offered by several internationally-recognised universities in various parts of the world, including India and Germany. The scholarships are accessed via the newly-established Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL), which falls under the purview of the Ministry of Education.

GOAL, in a statement earlier in the year had announced that “teachers who embark in studies in various disciplines at the partnering universities in distinctive and diverse programmes and are successful will receive incentives and recognition including monetary incentives; points for promotion; graduate status among other considerations.”

More specifically, the statement also encouraged teachers who do not possess the entry requirements for Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) to enroll for the Bachelor Preparatory Programme being offered at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

“Successful completion of this programme will facilitate entry into CPCE,” GOAL had said.

Since the GOAL scholarships initiative was launched in April, it received 8,800 applications, inclusive of teachers. Although the programme initially intended to offer an annual quota of 4,500 scholarships, the mammoth interest garnered by the programme forced government to amend its 2021l allocation to accommodate 6000 beneficiaries.

President Ali told the Region Two residents that, in addition to providing direct opportunities for teachers, his government will also be ensuring better opportunities for the children and relatives of local educators.

Meanwhile, Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, in an engagement with teachers of the Good Hope Nursery School annex located along the Supenaam River, acknowledged that over the past 17 months, thousands of Guyana’s teachers have gone above and beyond to ensure that their learners were not left behind during the height of the pandemic.

“We know these things; we recognise these things,” Edghill told the teachers.

In recognising the fact that many teachers were even expending their own monies to ensure they have internet connections to reach out to their students, the minister assured that “your good will not go unrewarded.”

Edghill told the teachers that, as part of the government’s plans to improve their lives, they will also have better access to housing, “You are young professionals,” Edghill emphasised.
He, however, declined to say what the other components of government’s “menu of measures” are.

“I can’t give you all the details today, because that will be spilling the beans,” Edghill quipped.

He assured that Guyana’s burgeoning oil and gas sector will result in the provision of even more investments within the education sector, including a mammoth increase of the Education Cash Grants from $19,000 to $50,000.

“While everything is not perfect, we have been doing good for Guyana,” the minister posited.

Turning his attention to the deadly coronavirus, which has already taken millions of lives globally, and close to 700 right here in Guyana, Edghill used the forum to encourage teachers to see the value, and ensure that they are vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus.

He cautioned that COVID-19 will not “disappear overnight”, but will require a positive approach to immunisation, which has been hailed as the only safe way out of the pandemic that continues to ravage the world.

The minister said that even though the virus remains, it was important that the government reopened schools, as a means of avoiding further learning loss, and curbing the school dropout rate that has worsened since the virus struck Guyana in March 2020. “It wasn’t ideal, but it was necessary,” Edghill asserted.

He reminded that at a time when nations were struggling to have access to the lifesaving vaccines, Guyana has been one of the very few countries that have been able to secure enough jabs for its entire adult population, and, soon, enough for the adolescent population.

As it is, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has been attempting to rally a strike action among teachers, owing to the government’s vaccination policies, which seek to prevent the spread of the virus. However, despite the GTU’s actions, more than 80 per cent of the nursery and primary school teachers have turned out to work.

The Ministry of Education had described the strike as being “uncaring and unconscionable” since scores of pupils and students have been out of school for 17 months. The ministry also chided the GTU’s General Secretary, Coretta McDonald, for using the sacred entity to further the agenda of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), for which she is a Member of Parliament.

The government also believes that the efforts by the GTU is an attempt to tarnish the work of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government, which assumed office in August 2020. (By Rehana Ahamad)

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