–Education Ministry to now award scholarships, grant duty-free concessions directly
THE Ministry of Education will now absorb the role of managing teachers’ benefits, a task which was previously executed by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), following complaints of unfairness in allocation by teachers.
The Ministry of Education officially announced this move in a statement issued on Tuesday, and noted that the benefits will continue, albeit under new management.
“The Ministry of Education shall conduct and manage this programme as obtains in other government agencies with similar benefits. Our teachers will still be able to access the scholarships and duty-free concessions at the stated amount per year. Our teachers will continue to benefit from these programmes, thus realising the true intent of the programme, but in an organised, fair and transparent manner,” the Education Ministry said.
The government, through the Education Ministry, allocates 50 scholarships and 100 duty-free concessions to the nation’s teachers annually. This facility was managed by the GTU, which would submit the names of the teachers eligible for the benefits.
However, the ministry has said that “all has not been right” in how the programme is being managed by the GTU.
The Education Ministry noted: “This programme was intended to assist and further serve teachers and provide them with additional benefits as they continue to provide excellent service to the educational system. However, the Ministry of Education continues to receive complaints and reports from serving teachers regarding how these benefits are allocated or not allocated.”
This newest change comes following GTU’s recent call for strike action in protest of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, which requires teachers be vaccinated or produce negative PCR tests weekly.
With little support to their call, the Ministry of Education said it has received reports that the GTU has been using its ability to allocate the benefits as a means of “strong arming” teachers into getting on board with the illegal industrial action.
This, the ministry said, has led to a proliferation of complaints from teachers against the GTU.
“Members are informed openly and subtly that they will not be a recipient or continuing recipient of a scholarship nor of a duty-free concession. These reports have come from teachers who are duly qualified to receive these benefits. These reports cannot be ignored. These benefits were meant to serve teachers, not to attack them or to discriminate against them,” the Education Ministry said.
With schools physically reopened from September 6 for face-to-face learning after a 17-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers were asked to either be vaccinated or produce negative PCR tests as a means of protecting against the spread of the virus in schools.
The GTU has been protesting against this measure by directing its protest at the Ministry of Education and the subject minister, Priya Manickchand.
But early this week, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, said that the protest and strikes were illegal and did not qualify as legitimate industrial action, since the teachers did not have a grievance with their employer.
“You can’t as a teacher, strike against COVID-19 regulations issued by the Ministry of Health, and gazetted. Your employer, the Ministry of Education, has done nothing to you,” Hamilton had said.
He went on to say: “I am saying, as Minister of Labour, advised by legal counsel and the Chief Labour Officer, that everything about what they call a strike or protest is out of order. Screaming and chanting at the Ministry of Education office and the Minister of Education is counterproductive because they have no grievance with the Ministry of Education.”