A push-and-pull effect regarding the start of classes has students and parents/guardians across Belize puzzled. Due to the 11-day industrial action taken by the BNTU in October 2016, the Ministry of Education (MOE) had initially agreed to deduct four days from the Christmas break and two days from the Easter break to make up for the lost time. However, before schools closed for the 2016 Christmas holiday break, the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) issued a press release that ordered students to take their full Christmas vacation and return to the classroom on Monday, January 9th. In response, the MOE issued out a press release reminding students to disregard the BNTU’s press release, and that classes for the new semester will resume on Tuesday, January 3rd.
Parents/guardians had to play the waiting game, and see what the outcome would be on Tuesday morning. Some students dressed in their uniforms and arrived at school. The majority of schools across the country canceled classes, due to poor attendance. All primary government schools were closed on January 3rd, while San Pedro High School (SPHS) classes were in session. However, on January 4, 2017, all schools were closed, including SPHS, and students were told to return on Monday, January 9th.
The San Pedro Sun spoke some parents who sent their children to school, only to have classes canceled. Some expressed their dissatisfaction with the BNTU, while others supported the Union’s stance. “I really hope the Union and the Ministry can come up with a solution and think about our children’s education. But I do understand the need for the BNTU to stand up against the Ministry,” said one parent. “In a case like this, even if our children are losing class time, it is still our responsibility as parents to ensure that our children are learning–whether they’re in school or not. In this country, we have to stand up for our rights, and hold the government accountable.”
Meanwhile, a parent of a high school student is not happy about the excessive days missed in the classroom. “I am very concerned about my child losing too much instructional time. Having our students come back on January 3rd would have been beneficial for them to make up lost time. As a parent, it hurts that I have to financially sacrifice for my child to go to high school because it is not free. I expect to get my money’s worth back with my child getting a quality education. I believe concerned parents should hold a forum and both the BNTU and the MOE should incorporate the parents’ opinion on this issue.”
This latest stalemate between the BNTU and the MOE has not been addressed by the Ministry as of press time.