The BNTU held their first rally in Orange Walk town of what is to be a series of rallies taking place scheduled to take place throughout the month of January. Teachers from all corners of Orange Walk, and their many supporters paraded the streets of Orange Walk singing an anthem of solidarity that went like this:
Parading Teachers Singing: “Solidarity forever, solidarity forever…’caz the union makes us strooong”.
We encountered a many familiar faces at the rally, among them was Fred Ortega, Vice Chair of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) who is similarly balked by a political struggle. He told us why he was at the rally lending his support to the teacher’s Union
“I am here because there are teachers that are cane farmers also”.
Reporter: “How many farmers are you talking about here?”
Mr. Alfredo Ortega: “Between Corozal and Orange Walk, we have about 250 farmers.
Reporter: “Similarly, it is the same plight against the Government of Belize and the…both unions the BSCFA and the teachers’ union. What do you think the problem?'”
Another teacher’s union was present at the rally. Leon Palacio, President of the Belize Progressive Teacher’s Union (PTU) told us that they are fighting for the same cause.
“Ok, uhm, over-all, it’s two teachers Union. We fight for the same cause and we know that at the end of the day teachers are very important for this country. Without teachers, education will not span. And of course, if we don’t fight and get what we need to get and they don’t hear us, we will not be seen and we will have a lot of load on our shoulders”.
Reporter: “How much of your members do you expect to come out today?”
“Mr. Leon Palacio: “I expect everyone, roughly, we have about 120. Some are from the villages, so the complication of reaching into the town is, it’s kind of difficult for them. However, we know that they are here by spirit and profession. So we know that our teachers will be out here. Regardless of Union, we are all teachers, we are all workers and we are standing out here as one body”.
Reporter: “When you took the message to your members, what was the feelings of the teachers that belong to the Belize Progressive Teacher’s Union?”
“Mr. Leon Palacio: “Well, people were very, a little bit skeptic in terms of coming out and demonstrating because of their management that they have under the Government or whichever management they have so they were a little bit afraid. However, when they see that the president moves and the people are moving in Orange Walk, they will move”.
We were informed by officials that out of the 500 teachers that was expected to participate in the rally, an estimated 350 teachers showed up. That is more than half of what was anticipated. BNTU president Luke Palacio was present throughout the march after which BNTU and PTU gave educational speeches where they addressed topics such including the teacher’s salary adjustment, teacher working conditions and other topics of interest. BNTU president Luke Palacio brought to the rally a message to all the teachers and educators.
“For us as teachers and educators, in this nation, we need to start to change this mentality and all this mindsets that all of these negative things that are affecting our nation, all of these laws and legislation that we are pushing for. For the government to implement or legislate affect the life of every Belizean. Those issues speak to Social Security, Public Accounts Committee, to the Occupation and Safety and Health Bill, and they speak to of course, to corruption. If we continue to leave these things to keep on just going, people will believe that that is the norm, and we don’t intend to do that. As educators, we are agents of change and we should allow our people to understand that this cannot continue. Otherwise, we need to determine what our future may be”.
All in all, it was a good turnout for the Union.