Tomorrow the Belize National Teachers Union will kick off a series of public rallies scheduled to take place country wide, here in Orange Walk. This forms part of the BNTU’s first phase in their plan of action to hold Government accountable for their salary increase and that of other public officers. The union has been making its rounds asking Belizeans, both young and old to join in the rallies.

And one day before the rallies are scheduled to take place in Orange Walk and Corozal, the union finds itself in some contention with the Ministry of Education. By way of press release, the Ministry announced that the correspondences being circulated by the BNTU informing schools, principals and teachers of planned rallies was not directed to the Chief Education Officer, as per Rule 133 of the Education Rules (2000). The release says “the failure to seek permission, if deliberate, contradicts the spirit of partnership and contrary to the rules stated above.’ In the release the Ministry expresses strong concern on its own behalf and on the behalf of students, parents, managing authorities and other stakeholders on the convenience to families, unnecessary disruption of classes, and other negative effects on learning to children and young people that additional non-school days will cause.

“The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is of the view that such rallies and similar events could be planned on weekends when it would not affect the teaching and learning of our children and young people.” says the release.

Since the kick-off rally is scheduled in Orange Walk Town, we contacted president of BNTU Orange Walk Branch, Otilio Munoz, who says the Ministry is just pulling off an intimidation act, but adds that the BNTU stands firm in their proposed plan of action.

Screen_Shot_2014-01-09_at_7.00.08_PMOtilio Munoz– President, BNTU, OW

“We inform the ministry, there is a difference between requesting permission and informing, so this thing shouldn’t be a surprise for them because from the very instance that BNTU said that we had an action plan, we said it loud and clear it would be expected from the 6th of January and so you are going to tell me that they don’t know, you understand me.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“The contention is that they wanted something in writing to be directed to the Chief Education Officer, was that done?”

Otilio Munoz– President, BNTU, OW

Well, to my knowledge I know it was done at a national level but the thing is that the teachers are making a stand and we have already planned it for a long time, I have the press release that they sent and I answer it, the media, or GOB or the ministry, it is clear nothing is going to stop this rally tomorrow nothing.”

The basis of their rallies, says Munoz, is the Prime Minister's New Year's Message which was the raise of pay for teachers and public officers. And while the PM spoke of the increase in good terms, it did not sit well with the Union as he talked about a date of implementation of the raise.

Otilio Munoz– President, BNTU, OW

“Tomorrow the brothers of the northern will rally and we are expecting that from down Stann Creek all down from the other side of the country you will be seeing teacher not going in uniform but they are going on their shirt in solidarity with the brothers of the north who will be rallying. When Belize have theirs next week it is going to be Corozal and Orange Walk in the same way it would be this is a uniform and well unified action plan, we are not saying it is a holiday, we are saying as it is on our law that teachers are making that decision to come out and inform the principal I will come out to this rally and just to make you know I will not be here on Friday, that is it.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“So the argument with the MOE is that there is an unnecessary interruption of classes and other negative effects on learning by our children and young people, and you are saying it is not a holiday, but what about the children, what happens to the children?”

Otilio Munoz– President, BNTU, OW

“Now here we look at the educators of this country and we need to be realistic, who tell you that learning does not takes place outside of the classroom, who? When we are out there tomorrow we are not educating a set of people we are educating the whole country, we are heading out of the classroom, we talk about constitutional rights in our classroom as teachers, we show we are going to teach and we show our children that we teach and we live out what we teach and that is how we are going to be educating people and our children if no one can stand for them the can rest assure that there are teachers who will always stand up for what is wrong and we inculcate that in our children and that is the most important thing and some children know what some teachers go through because some of them have been victims of the situation of our national issues, of poverty you name it.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“Parents will be wondering ok should I send my child to school or what, keep them home for half day what is it?”

Otilio Munoz– President, BNTU, OW

“No, parents need to be on board with us and they need to understand that when teachers do something we can we will never are going to be doing something that at the end of the day no one will benefit, everybody will benefit, right we take care of their children we know that there is a lot of problem with job so when they look at teacher, they are there you know they have to see those children because we cannot see a child going hungry in the classroom, you cannot blame the parents because they don’t have a job, what can you do stop teaching no, when you see a child going without pencil, without exercise book, teacher have to buy their stock and go to A&R and spend $300 of their pockets and their salary to be doing their job as a teacher and provide for those children who don’t have a pencil and don’t have a blank and yet ministry requires a lot of things that a teacher has to put the don’t say here is the money and you can do it, we have to take it out from our pay.”

Munoz says he expects over 500 teachers to show up in solidarity in tomorrow’s rally but is encouraging all parents to join in on their plight. The congregation will meet at the Central Park at 8:00am. 

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