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GUT expresses concerns

Marvin Andall - GUT President

The following address was delivered by the President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Marvin Andall which touched on concerns with the re-opening of schools for the first time since the island was affected by the coronavirus pandemic:

Fellow educators, citizens all. We are beginning the new school year which will be one that we have never experienced in living memory. We expect what it will be one with great challenges.

There is no doubt that the direct engagement of students with their teachers is indispensable in the teaching/learning process. With the closure of schools here in Grenada since March, we can assume that it has had a negative effect on our education system.

With the virus still spreading through many countries in the region and wider world the reopening of school is a frightening and difficult proposition. However, the indefinite closure of school is even more frightening due to the many social ills that can occur.

The G.U.T was convinced that the plans presented by the Ministry of Education appeared to be quite comprehensive and workable. The G.U.T is now very concerned with the vast difference between what was presented on paper as the plans for the reopening of school and what has actually happened thus far. We can tell that if this trend continues the safety of students and staff at the various institutions could be compromised.

It is our view that too much of the responsibility for the safety of students is placed on principals and teachers and many have expressed the view of being overwhelmed.

The Ministry of Education must make the load lighter to lift.

On a different matter, the G.U. T. applauds the effort of the Ministry of Education to provide devices to teachers at the secondary school. It is baffling that the ministry would insist that the teachers sign a contract which they nor their union had not seen before. To make bad matters even worse, there appears to be two versions of the same contract. The latter makes reference to the G.U.T. It is clear that such a contract should have been presented to teachers and their union for scrutiny before they are required to sign.

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As we begin to navigate these unchartered waters, we appeal to the Ministry of Education to keep its commitments as outlined in the plan presented for the reopening of school. In these times your words and actions must be more closely related. We cannot afford for it to be otherwise. We expect that each school would be thoroughly inspected and receive approval from the Ministry of Health to operate.

We also expect that the appropriate Ministry of Education official would sign the school specific plan.

We appeal to the Ministry of Education to do more of the following:

(1) Promote behaviours that reduce COVID-19 spread.

(2) Maintain a healthy school environment.

(3) Prepare for if and when someone gets sick.

(4) Prepare in the event that it becomes necessary to have the immediate closure of school.

We are aware that there will be many challenges in these times but we are confident that with wisdom and tenacity we can safely navigate these choppy waters.

We appeal to our members to make your safety and that of your students be your top priority.

May the Good Lord keep us safe as we embark on this unusual journey.