Several schools managed by the Catholic Public School System experienced a disruption in class schedule on Monday, after unpaid teachers failed to show up to school. Instead, the teachers convened for an emergency meeting after a salary postponement this past Friday. On Monday morning, teacher Frances Aveya, of the Cayo District, visited Rise and Shine, where she relayed to us what she and other teachers experienced last week. According to her, she and her colleagues went to inquire about why their month’s salary was not provided to them at the assured time. But information was not forthcoming, until finally they were told that they would be paid by 3 o’clock. However, that didn’t happen so Aveya and her colleagues devised a plan going forward.
Ms. Francis Avella – Teacher
“We stayed there until 3:30 and nobody told us anything. We were just deciding that if they cannot be respectful to tell us what is happening, they are treating us like children that we cannot understand. If they cannot tell us what is happening, they don’t want to talk with us, then, we need to make a decision! When we draw the line that we took it on our own on Friday to say: listen, let’s gather, let’s look at the situation…you know, let’s take back. Let’s look at what is happening to us now. How can we move forward? What can we do to assist these people? They drew the line in being quiet. We are saying, we don’t want you to be quiet! We want you to tell us what is happening”.
The Ministry of Education did inform the teachers of what was happening. On Friday night, they issued a joint press release with the Catholic Public Schools System, stating that the delay in payment was caused by a glitch discovered after the payroll was submitted to the Treasury Department. The Ministry says “Although the payroll was submitted on time, there was a glitch that was not picked up by the Catholic Public Schools prior to its submission to the Ministry or by the Ministry during its initial check prior to submitting to the Treasury Department for payment. Unfortunately, the glitch was not picked up until the Treasury Department did the final check this week. Since then the Catholic Public Schools and the Ministry have been working diligently along with the Treasury Department to rectify this issue.” A follow up press release said that affected teachers will be paid on Tuesday, October 1st and rural school teachers will be allowed to take Tuesday off to collect their pay and transact business while teachers from urban school will be given Tuesday afternoon. On Monday morning, Minister of Education, the Hon. Patrick Faber called into Rise and Shine, where he apologized on the Ministry’s behalf and further shed light on the event.
Hon. Patrick Faber- Minister of Education
“We made clear from Friday that teachers will be paid on Tuesday…and I will say and I’ll make the appeal to the teachers that are out of school today, to be in school because it has been said from Friday that this glitch that occurred will not be able to be sixed even and I want her to know and the caller who called just now after Mr. Ico that people have been working over the weekend Saturday and Sunday in the Treasury, and in our Ministry so that everything is worked out and there’s nothing that can be done before Tuesday. None of us want to see the teachers not paid. It’s not a problem with the Government not having money. This is not something done intentionally to punish Belmopan teachers or any other teachers for that matter. That is no such game in the Ministry, so, I am appealing to these teachers who are trying to make it seem like that is the case!”
As we mentioned, 101 teachers in the Belmopan area, as well as the Orange Walk District met on Monday to discuss the incident which they say has been happening one time too many. And so Catholic primary schools in these areas were closed, a move the Minister was not in the least, impressed by.
Hon. Patrick Faber
“… and so, missing school today does not do anything as to speed up the…we have said definitively since Friday, that we are working all go to make sure that things are rectified by Tuesday, so that they can be in the bank by Tuesday. What message do you send when you say you care about the teachers and fell sorry about the students if you don’t go to work today to gather to sensitize people about what? Something that does not really happen very often, there’s a system in place, but there are some glitches at the start of the school year every year, and then, you know, people complain and say, the system is not set up properly. This is a system with almost five thousand teachers and at the end of the…during the summer time when people are to be coming on, people are leaving, going to another school, this one is coming on, this one is going, this one decide e no wahn come back and the management has to put in all of these things and catch everything like this. It is not something that can be predicted and it only probably happen at the start of the school year.”
Minister Faber’s call ignited a domino effect – various teachers from across the country, including the President of the BNTU Belmopan branch called in to lend their voices to the protest.
“I want to ask the Minister, Can I go to the financial institution and give him that excuse? When I go to BEL at 7:00, and tell them that I did not get paid so I cannot pay my light Bill, can I do that? Can I give them the same excuse that he is giving us today? And now, when Friday come, for three and a half hours, teachers are out there, they needed their pay and nobody has the courage to say, you know what , teachers? This is what is happening, Friday night they will come and send a press release. Nobody cahn come and seh, oh, unuh dih try keep children, unuh no dih think bout the children! The children is always at heart, but we have to teach the children too; whatever you believe in, you stand up for. Most of the teachers, that they are paid from last week Wednesday. So, they should have done…if they did that for the high schools…they should have done the primary schools the following day, then, there would have been no glitches…and not wait until the final day. A lot of the teachers have payments to do at the bank. The bank doesn’t care if you have a delay. They have already…even though the minister said that they should go to work, the Catholic schools teachers .
Again, according to the Ministry, these teachers employed under the Catholic Public System will receive their salaries tomorrow and the group of teachers who met today in Belmopan say that they will not be attending classes until they get paid. They told us that they simply cannot go to school, as they have no money and so will meet again tomorrow morning, after which they will head to the Parish office in hopes that they will be able to collect their monies. The Orange Walk Catholic Principals Association of Primary Schools issued a statement informing the general public, parents and students, that teachers under the Catholic Management WILL NOT be reporting to schools as of tomorrow September 30th 2013. They say this is a show of protest for not receiving due salary for the month of September. Meanwhile, the Ministry and the Treasury Department will be calling a meeting with all Primary School Managements and other relevant entities to review all communication channels, procedures and requirements with respect to the payment of salaries to teachers to ensure that these occurrences are minimized in the future.
In related news, the Ministry of Education addressed another salary crisis that has lead to some Government Primary School teachers not being paid on schedule for the month of September. The release states “These teachers had one year temporary employment letters that would have ended August 31, 2013. Unfortunately, new letters extending their employment were not issued and hence they were removed from payroll at the end of August, 2013. The Ministry and the Management of Government Schools are working diligently to resolve this matter so that these teachers can be paid by Tuesday, October 1, 2013. Where necessary, these teachers will be allowed the necessary time to access their salaries.