Hundreds of teachers, backed by supporters gathered outside the Ministry of Education in a loud protest this morning against the Government’s vaccination policy, which has seen unvaccinated teachers and other public servants who fail to produce a negative COVID-19 test result being locked out of their workplaces.
The protest today marked the beginning of an initial three-day strike called by the Guyana Teachers Union. The GTU and its members agreed to the strike action last night during a virtual meeting.
The Education Ministry is not happy with the strike and protests and has called out the teachers as “uncaring and unconscionable” over the move.
Outside the Education Minister’s office, the masked teachers and their supporters said the Government must rethink its vaccination policy and allow teachers to make the choice to be vaccinated against COVID-19 rather than be forced to take the vaccine.
The GTU’s position is that the Government should stand the cost for the COVID-19 PCR tests that are being required for teachers who are not vaccinated.
More than 50% of the country’s public school teachers are unvaccinated.
General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union and Opposition Member of Parliament Coretta McDonald said the vaccination policy needs to be removed.
She said it is shameful that the same teachers who were in school last week preparing for classes and many of them who taught CXC and Common Entrance classes in the past months are now being locked out of the same schools.
“We are ready to work, all we are asking you to do is to lift the restriction, honour our obligation and respect us. That’s all we are demanding. If you start doing that today and tomorrow we are back in the classroom in full force on Friday, but in the meantime, we will say to you that we are not hostages in our own country”, the GTU General Secretary declared.
While the Government continues to declare that the vaccines are not mandatory, teachers and other citizens say the additional measures being added almost weekly are making the vaccines mandatory.
GTU Regional Vice President, Collis Nicholson said the issue is very clear and a caring Ministry of Education would listen to the teachers and engage their union more.
“The teachers have a union and if you are going to have any discussion about the teacher’s welfare, you must come to the representative body of the teachers. And, so you’re going and have meetings with some of the teachers and you can’t have that. You have to come to the representative; speak with them and then we will, in turn, tell you what are the concerns of the teachers”, the union representative said.
There were other protests in other parts of the country. In the mining town of Linden, scores of teachers also gathered there and marched through the streets of the town in protest of the government measures.
They have also expressed concern about the unpreparedness of many of the schools for the reopening.