BNTU and Ministry of Education at odds over proposed Education Act Amendment
Wednesday, January 8th, 2020
The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) is voicing its opinion against the proposed amendment of the Education Act by the Ministry of Education. If approved, the amendment would give the Chief Education Officer the authority to dictate the school calendar including teacher’s vacation periods. As such, BNTU President, Senator Elena Smith encouraged teachers countrywide to show their dissatisfaction by wearing their ‘Teechaz Gat Yu Bak” t-shirts on the first day of classes following the Christmas break. According to reports, this move is the first motion as BNTU prepares to stand against the Education Act amendment.
“As you are aware, the Ministry has done some proposed amendments to the education rules. One to vacation period, one to contracts, and one to emergency vacancies. Our members are not satisfied with the vacation period, because as you are aware, the change was made to the Christmas break. However, the amendment will be covering all the vacation periods and will be giving the Chief sole [authority] to determine the vacation periods and the school calendars. Our members are not happy with that, and they have not accepted that. We have not gotten the final document to see what it says, but that is the position,” said Smith.
BNTU’s stance against the amendment stems from the MOE decision to replace Section 132 (4), (5), аnd (6) of the Education Act, which set the time allowed for Christmas, Easter and Summer Vacation. Through the changes, the Chief Education Officer will be able to set the duration of these vacation periods without the need of approval or even considering BNTU’s position to ensure that the school year contains 180 contract days. BNTU’s biggest concern is that a single person will be able to change the vacation days instead of having a proper outline of the time allotted in the Education Act rules.However, the Ministry feels this amendment is being done in the best interest of the children within the educational system. “The children are our greatest concerns. Our concern is that the children, according to the Education Rules, are entitled to a hundred and eighty days. The children wanted their full three-week vacation and the Ministry of Education, under our minister, granted that. But we need to ensure that the hundred and eighty days are made up. There are draft amendments; they are not finalized as yet. We will look at the school’s calendar and we need to see how the children…the children deserve it. Education is the only hope for these children; we cannot short change them. And I am a teacher too, by profession, and we need to ensure that children get what they deserve and need and they need the hundred and eighty days,“ explained Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer.
Both BNTU and MOE are open to dialoging over the situation, however BNTU s prepared to take further steps to asset their stance if needed.
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