As the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU)- backed strike for teachers entered its second week, President Irfaan Ali is pleading with teachers to return to the classroom, promising them that better days are ahead.
While the Government still refuses to engage the union, the President in a broadcast from State House on Sunday afternoon said since taking office, the current Government has introduced a menu of measures to boost the morale and improve the living standards of teachers across Guyana.
While acknowledging that there is more work that needs to be done, he said teachers should be patient and understanding.
“What more do we need to do to prove to teachers, proof to every category of workers in this country that we have your back. A little bit of patience and understanding as I said when I met with teachers, that in the course of this year and coming years, it will get consistently better and at a more rapid pace,” the President said.
Thousands of teachers continue to stay away from their classrooms, in an effort to get the Government and the Guyana Teachers Union to the negotiation table to begin discussions on the union’s multi-year proposal, which was submitted to the Government three years ago.
In his message to the striking teachers, President Ali said people need to “look at what we have done for teachers. You know when we came into government one of the first concerns of the teachers was that the previous government when you were hired as a teacher, you were not hired at the right, you were hired at an older scale, as a result, your salary was based on an old scale and your increase was based on an old scale, we corrected that situation and that correction alone cost us $700M.”
The President also spoke about several new allowances the government has introduced for teachers and noted that teachers also now have easier access to education through government funded programmes.
“We are making the opportunities available to teachers in their school to earn their degree, through the GOAL scholarship programme, through the online teachers union, through the associate degree programme. Every teacher in the system now, has a free opportunity that the government is investing on their behalf, so that they can upgrade their skills, become trained teachers and earn a degree. Outside we are given an additional allowance of $6,000 for every teacher with a post-graduate diploma. And guess what? All the training we are doing under the GOAL scholarship programme, qualifies those teachers to be part of this also,” the President noted.
The President maintains that the current strike action is political. He said the government’s commitment to teachers was demonstrated when they were paid their full salaries during the pandemic when they were out of the classroom. Teachers have reminded that while they were out of the classroom, online classes were introduced, and they were among the first group of persons to report back to work during the pandemic.