The majority of teachers showed up to schools on Wednesday despite calls for a strike by the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).
Those on strike took their protest to the Ministry of Education’s Brickdam office in Georgetown. They called for a reversal of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination policy.
The teachers’ protest comes three days after the reopening of some schools for face-to-face learning.
The Ministry of Education released data on Wednesday following the strike. The data showed that that 88 per cent of the required nursery school teachers reported for work and 89 per cent of primary school teachers reported for duty. The Ministry also reported that majority of the pupils who were scheduled to attend classes on Wednesday showed up.
Region Ten recorded the lowest turnout of teacher and students on Wednesday. The Region, which also has the lowest vaccination rates, reported a 6.1 per cent attendance rate for teachers and 10.8 per cent for pupil’s attendance for both nursery and primary schools.
Regions Three, Five, Eight and Nine saw a 90 per cent turnout.
For schools in Georgetown there was an 18 per cent attendance rate for primary school pupils. The Ministry noted 831 out of 4, 507 pupils showed up on Wednesday.
The government has said it is not mandatory for teachers to be vaccinated but they are required to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test seven days prior to entering school buildings. The test must be done at a private facility which costs $15,000 to $25,000.
Teachers who are vaccinated also protested on Wednesday and, according to Renita Gladstone who is vaccinated, the PCR tests should be free.
“I got the first does of the vaccine, I intend to take the second dose. My issue is if you are going to ask my unvaccinated colleagues to take the PCR test and they are going to pay the cost for that test…it is unfair for them to pay the cost of the PCR test.
“$100,000 a month is not even some teachers’ salary, it is very hard,” Gladstone stated.
Following the GTU’s call for teacher’s to strike, the Ministry of Public Service late Tuesday night stated that any public sector employee, inclusive of teachers, will not be paid if they are absent from work.
But GTU’s Administrative Manager Lancelot Baptiste explained that one of the conditions for any strike action is that no one is victimised and no pay is lost.
“A teacher called me and said the word is going around that they may lose pay and I said no the Union will never stand up or stand by and let any teacher lose pay,” Baptiste told the media at the protest.
According to Baptiste, the solution for the strike action is to hold talks with the Ministry of Education.
“Let’s see how we can iron out this thing, let’s talk about it.”
While acknowledging that only the children will suffer, Baptiste said the GTU is prepared to continue its strike until the ministry addresses their concerns.
Already, Guyana has recorded significant learning loss at every level due to the pandemic and according to the Ministry of Education, more than six hundred drop-outs is recorded at the primary level alone.