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Is there now peace between the teachers and their minister?

Published: Sep 23, 2013

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After more than a week of disruptions at Stephen Dillet and Uriah McPhee primary schools, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald assured parents and teachers yesterday that there is no “threat to their health and safety”.

Officials from the Ministry of Education, the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) toured both schools, along with the minister.

Fitzgerald said with the exception of cleaning the vents, which is ongoing, work at both schools has been completed.

“We expect by the end of this week or next week Monday to inspect the duct work, and to make sure that the air conditioning system is working as it is now,” Fitzgerald told administrators and PTA officials at Stephen Dillet Primary School.

“This school has been functioning from last Wednesday... The same thing applies for Uriah McPhee.

There has been significant unrest at both schools in recent, as the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) pressed the ministry to fix deficiencies at the institutions. BUT President Belinda Wilson claimed the schools also have mold, and rodent and termite infestation.

Goodwill seems to have broken down between Fitzgerald and Wilson. The two speak to each other through the media.

Public school teachers in the Family Islands were told over the weekend by the BUT to be on “alert”. The message was sent to teachers in an email. However, the email did not say if teachers would take further action after weeks of industrial unrest in New Providence.

“There are many issues that are negatively affecting our teachers and the schools that are not being addressed,” said the union.

“Teachers are being threatened, class sizes are very large, teacher shortages, unhealthy and unsafe working environments, millions of dollars owed to teachers and much more.”

The Ministry of Education must admit there were problems at the schools, as it has spent thousands of dollars trying to fix these problems after the union raised them. The teachers should acknowledge that the ministry has done something to address at least some of their concerns. As we have said before, the two sides now need to sit and work, in good faith, to remedy the other concerns where common agreement can be reached.

The events at these schools over the last few weeks have disrupted the educations of the children attending these schools. Further unrest will further harm our children.

The minister and his officers should always have the humility to listen to the concerns of teachers and work to remedy them without the teachers having to stage demonstrations. Similarly, the teachers should always be will to seek audience behind closed doors before creating a public fuss. Something has broken down in this relationship on one or both sides. Maybe a senior member of government should intervene to assist the minister before this relatively small dispute gets out of hand.

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