Across the country today, a large number of teachers abandoned their classrooms to step up their strike action for increased salaries.
From Lethem and Linden to Georgetown and Berbice, hundreds of teachers stayed away from the classrooms on the first day of the new school year.
In Georgetown, scores of protesting teachers gathered outside the Ministry of Education to voice their dissatisfaction with Government’s salary increase offer to them. The current proposal that is on the table would only see teachers receiving an additional $4,000 on their salaries for this year.
In front of the Brickdam office of the Education Minister, teachers were joined by their union representatives as they sang “solidarity forever”, while expressing hope in their union.
“Between 15% and 20% should be offered and we will accept”, said one protesting teacher, as another one indicated that she has “full trust in my union and I will stand by them and this protest”.
Some teachers did not want to provide their names or even the schools they teach, pointing out that they fear being victimised because of their decision to not only strike, but to be part of protest action.
“We are caring and we are not selfish”, a male teacher shouted, as he took aim at the Minister responsible for Labour, Keith Scott and reported statements he made at a recent event. The Minister, according to reports, told Bursary awardees that those teachers on strike were selfish and uncaring.
General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union, Coretta McDonald, said she would like to thank the Labour Minister for his statement, since it reinforces the GTU position that the Labour Department cannot be a fair mediator in the current conciliation talks.
She said the Labour Department has already been trying to pressure the union into accepting the Government’s proposal, adding that the union will stand firm to its position.
The GTU General Secretary said on Tuesday, teachers should take a day off from the picket line and stay home and then return to the protest line for the remaining days of the week.
News Source visited some schools in the city and while there were many teachers away from the classroom, there were just as many who turned out to work but were not conducting any classes.
“I came out to work but I am not teaching, I honestly cant deal with deductions from my salary because I have a mortgage to pay and other bills, but I will be protesting not by staying away, but by not teaching”, a teacher at a Georgetown secondary school told News Source.
At one of the many primary schools where teachers stayed away, security guards were advised by the senior ones who were present to keep the gates locked as a way of assisting with better control of the children.
Some parents were seen taking their children back home, saying they prefer to be the ones supervising their own children rather than to leave them at school doing nothing.
In Linden, the majority of teachers stayed out of the schools. They held a loud protest in front of the Education Department in the region, demanding better salaries.
In Lethem, a small group of teachers carried placards as they protested in the southern township.
Just like teachers in other parts of the country, they called on the government to put forward a better offer.