Several teachers from San Pedro High School (SPHS) along with senior students and other supporters started what they called a ‘Public Awareness Campaign,’ in support of the countrywide strike lead by the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU). The activities included a march through the main streets of San Pedro Town, followed by visits to different businesses by members of the protesting group. They expect to garner more support in their campaign against the government which demands better governance, transparency and the implementation of the teachers’ long awaited salary adjustment.
The group convened on Tuesday, October 11th at the Central Park and shortly after 10AM, began their peaceful road march. As the group walked up Barrier Reef Drive and onto Pescador Drive, they could be heard loudly chanting “Palacio is our leader, we shall not be removed!”
Many of the teachers taking part in the protest march are very concerned about the outcome of the situation since the Government is hesitant to meet their demands. Others believe that if they stay together and continue with the pressure, something can be achieved, but they will need the support of everyone in this cause. “This is not just about the 3% [pay increase], but for good accountability and transparency for the whole country,” said a teacher. “We want a balance when it comes to costs of living and our salaries, while at the same time provide a fair treatment for everyone when it comes to proper accountability of our taxes.” A few other teachers mentioned that the children are the most being affected from this issue, thus, a solution must come very soon.
Speaking to The San Pedro Sun about the campaign on the island was SPHS teacher and Staff Representative for the BNTU, Areli Reyes. She indicated that the initiative is not just to join the movement that is taking place countrywide, but to educate the local island population on how important the issue is. “We want the residents on the island to be aware of the situation and have a better understanding. They might be just listening to rumours, or hearing about topics on social media or TV, but again they might not really know what the real issue is,” said Reyes. “We will be going around visiting different establishments informing everyone what the BNTU movement is all about and what we are demanding.”
According to Reyes, at this point, there is no specific date when classes will be resumed. She stated that they are following the BNTU’s advice to take the issue one day at a time. “At the end of the day, the Union meets and then decides what the next step will be for the following day,” said Reyes.
The Government of Belize sent out a letter on Friday, October 7th, formally requesting BNTU’s President Luke Palacio to return to the negotiating table on Thursday, October 13th. It was emphasized in the letter that the Government remains immediately ready to further discuss the good governance agenda and the other issues BNTU has been complaining about. On October 12th, the BNTU accepted the invitation to meet with the Prime Minister on the said date. Cabinet also met on Tuesday October 11th to further discuss the situation and find a solution.