Teachers on strike at Bishops’ over social media posts

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Teachers at the Bishops’ High School in Georgetown are currently on day two of strike action over several posts on social media made against them by a former student.

The former student shared several experiences and that of others where they accused the teachers of bullying students and embarrassing them in public. The social media account, which is on Instagram under the name ‘Voices_against_bhs,’ also accused the teachers of being homophobic and verbally abusive against students.

During a visit to the school on Friday morning, the News Room was told that there are no teachers there nor the Principal; only the security guard and a few administrative staff were seen at the facility.

When contacted, General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Coretta McDonald told the News Room that following the social media posts, the teachers asked for an investigation but was not pleased with the action taken by the school’s administration.

“Teachers have been complaining that students are using the social media to put up derogatory statements about the teachers. Some investigation was launched and I don’t think it was satisfactorily dealt with,” McDonald disclosed.

As such, the teachers requested to proceed on strike and was guided by the union on the processes involved.

Schools reopened for Grades 10, 11 and 12 students on November 9 but the News Room learnt that while classes continued up to November 18 at the Bishops’ High School, it was abruptly suspended on Thursday; the students who are due to write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) have been turning up to school and are sent away.

All virtual classes of the school were also suspended.

The teachers are calling for a retraction of the posts on social media and for an apology from the former student.

McDonald agreed that action cannot be taken against a student who no longer attends the school but as it relates to the stories shared by current students, she said: “if the student is in the school system, then there are couple of things, an apology –in this instance it was done on social media so if you’re going to offer an apology, it must be done on that forum –and a retraction.”

McDonald said she is unsure for how long the strike action will continue since this is dependent on the teachers being satisfied that the matter was dealt with in a proper way.

“We cannot have students disrespecting teachers, that’s the bottom line. If students are going to be disrespecting teachers, then teachers will have to take a position,” McDonald said.

She added that “when teachers are insubordinate to their supervising officers, actions are taken against the teachers.”

A check of the Instagram account showed that the posts were removed and the creator of the account posted that she will be dealing with the matter privately.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Bishops’ High School Old Students’ Association condemned the actions of the teachers as contained in the posts.

“The stories shared portrayed multiple instances of emotional abuse, bullying, trauma, public humiliation, and anger, and along with harmful after-effects had by many of these victims. As a concerned alumni, we acknowledge and recognise that many of the stories shared have now found an outlet which is free and fair from perceived retribution,” the statement noted.

“These reports are disappointing and disheartening and go against the very grain of values and principles we have strived to uphold,” they added.

The association pledged to write an official letter to the School’s Principal, the Parent Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education to convene a stakeholders’ intervention to resolve the matter.

The News Room understands that the PTA will be meeting on Friday afternoon to deal with the matter.

Efforts to contact the Principal of the school proved futile.

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