–among plethora of welfare benefits introduced by Education Ministry through new programme
WIDE-RANGING low cost health and life insurance coverage, a revolving mortgage fund for teachers to access up to $12 million in financing, discounts at over 150 businesses, and the establishment of a Teacher Benevolence Fund are among the benefits public school teachers will soon begin to enjoy.
Also, in July 2022, the annual National Teachers’ Award will be reinstated with increased prizes and an inaugural teachers’ conference geared at capacity building and networking will be held.
These benefits and much more were announced, on Wednesday, at the launch of the Teachers’ Welfare and Benefits Programme (TWBP) at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).
“We are providing discounts across a wide range of sectors: electronics, telecommunications, household items, furniture and appliances [and] optical care. Over 150 entities have already signed up and others are contacting the Ministry of Education. The entities are spread across every single region,” Education Specialist Olato Sam said while giving an overview of the programme.
The launch forms part of the ministry’s Education Month activities.
The TWBP will be rolled out in each education district. Teachers will be required to register, after which they will be issued with a unique identification card that will be used at the participating businesses to access the discounts and special services.
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, in her remarks, shared that TWBP was birthed out of conversations she had with Sam on how to better provide for teachers, and how to remedy a certain level of distrust they have in the ministry.
“One of the first conversations Olato and I had was how to change how we are treating teachers, and providing resources, such as training, cardboard, chalk, and all of that, to make teachers more effective. And I felt acutely that distrust,” Minister Manickchand conveyed.
Minister Manickchand informed those in attendance that much will be invested in changing the education landscape to better appreciate the value of teachers, particularly because of the critical role education will play in aligning Guyana’s human resources with the country’s economic trajectory.
Moreso, because of the learning loss suffered over the past year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, the importance of teachers was emphasised.
“We know in the Ministry of Education (MoE) how valuable good teachers are. If we ever wondered about the value of a teacher in the classroom this last year and a half has really defined and underscored for us what that means. Those of us who, with the highest qualification, felt we could teach as parents, understood that teaching is an art that not everyone has,” the minister said as a resounding round of applause came from the multitude of teachers who were in attendance.
Minister Manickchand declared that there have also been changes to the disposition of the ministry’s inspectorate, which will be adopting a more compassionate approach as the ministry seeks to work along with teachers and their schools to improve education delivery to the nation.
“There is space for much improvement. We have redesigned the inspectorate. It will not be the same unit that attempts to change us with punitive measures. It is going to be a unit of support and holding the hands of schools through those changes. And you will feel that and you will understand when we say that we are serious,” she pledged.
Mirroring the minister’s sentiments on the importance of valuing and supporting teachers, was Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson, who delivered the opening remarks at the launch.
Dr. Hutson highlighted the importance of the need for the ministry to invest in the welfare of teachers if we are to see the education system develop to meet the advancing education needs of Guyana’s population.
“We are aware that a multiplicity of factors are responsible for influencing the quality of schools and teachers’ welfare is paramount. Since we are not oblivious to the gravity of the work of our teachers, it is only natural that we find tangible ways to support them in the execution of their responsibilities,” Dr. Hutson remarked.
He added: “I consider this launch significant and a testimony and true reflection of the love, respect and value we attach to the most valued resource in our education system, our teachers.”
The launch also saw remarks by representatives from a few of the top businesses supporting the initiative, including GTT Chief Executive Officer, Damian Blackburn, Managing Director of Metro, Ron Ramnarayan, and Managing Director of GTM, Roger Yee.
The highlight of the launch was the announcement of the health and life insurance benefits for teachers, under what was described as an “unprecedented package” of benefits. Administered by GTM, it will give teachers up to $1.5 million in life insurance coverage, while the health insurance will include aspects such as doctor visits, dental, maternity benefits, free medical checkups and preventative care, among other services.
GTM will also be managing the revolving mortgage which will give teachers $2M to $12M towards their mortgages.
Further, the Teacher Benevolence Fund, will provide financial support to teachers facing hardships.
Sam, noted that in the case of the National Teachers’ Award, he will be lobbying for an increase of the $1 million top prize.
He also highlighted the need for the ministry to work on changing the way teachers see the ministry, and how they work along with teachers to develop education.
“We have to work to erase that distrust and let them know we are fully supportive of who they are, what they do and their role,” Sam said.
Meanwhile, several of the businesses involved in the initiative had booths set up at the ACCC as part of a mini-exhibition that followed the launch ceremony. During the exhibition, teachers received several on-the-spot services such as free internet installations from E-Networks and GTT, footwear from Bhena’s Footwear, and $5000 gift vouchers from other retailers.
Four teachers won cellphone in a raffle held by GTT.