All now seems to be well between the Ministry of Education and the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) following a directive by the union to School Principals and Teachers to impose a one-year ban from September on fundraising activities for their institutions.
Speaking in Parliament last week Thursday, Minister of Education, Anthony Boatswain announced that an agreement has been reached between the Ministry and GUT that will allow for schools to put aside the request made by the GUT to suspend all fundraising activities in schools for one year.
Minister Boatswain said this is an important development as it would have been damaging to the successful operation of the delivery of education if the GUT threat was carried out.
“I wish to state that everything is now settled. The GUT has agreed to withdraw its recommendations to teachers and principals that they should cease all fundraising activities which we thought Mr. Speaker would have been detrimental because we do recognise the importance and the significance of getting our schools involved in various fundraising initiative to complement what the Ministry of Education is doing.
“…Indeed, we do have a responsibility to provide furniture, fixtures and teaching aids to our schools but we are not in a position financially to do so and therefore we have to rely on other stakeholders including our teachers, parent/teachers associations, ex-students associations to assist us in that regard and therefore we are indeed grateful.
The statement is seen as an appeasement to GUT officials who became incensed with statements made by Minister of State for Education, Senator Simon Stiell on the issue surrounding the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School (GBSS).
GUT and Ministry of Education exchanged words after government slammed the Principal of GBSS for announcing that parents would have to pay $250.00 for a desk and chair to sit in the classroom at the start of the new school year in September.
The Ministry of Education called on parents to ignore the decision since the school did not follow the right procedure and that the business of equipping the school with desks and chairs was the domain of the Ministry itself.
The GUT came out in defense of the school principal and charged that government was not living up to its responsibilities over the years in providing furniture and other supplies to the school and the void was being filled by the fundraising activities undertaken by Principals and Teachers.
The union shut down schools on June 1 as it ordered principals and teachers to stay home for the day and to reflect on the charges levelled against them by the Ministry of Education.
Minister Boatswain also used the Parliament platform to re-iterate government’s position that the proper protocol should be followed by schools if they want to conduct fundraising activities.
“We believe that if there are protocols in place such protocols should be followed and any decision that can be controversial or could be sensitive in nature, we admonish our schools through the GUT to inform the Ministry of Education first and that Mr. Speaker was the main issue,” he said.
According to Minister Boatswain, those who were criticising the Ministry of Education on the school furniture issue were lacking merit with their rantings.
“Mr. Speaker when we examine the record carefully, those who are accusing us now, their record of performance (was) far worst in terms of providing the assistance to the different schools.
“They coming out and lambasting the government without any moral value – to me they were not in a position to condemn what they did not do when they were in that position.
Minister Boatswain was obviously referring to statements made on the issue by former Education Minister Franka Alexis-Bernadine of the Congress party.
The ex-education minister chided the NNP regime of not visiting the schools on a regular basis to understand their needs and addressing them to the best of the financial capabilities of government.
Meanwhile, the GUT President, Lydon Lewis told THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday that the suspension of the one year ban on school fundraising activities is being considered and will only come into effect if the Ministry of Education issues a public statement apologising to the Union and by extension the Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS).
According to Lewis, a meeting was held with Ministry officials on May 31 when an apology was issued and an amicable settlement was reached for the union to withdraw the decision to suspend fundraising activities.
However, he said that in the meeting, the ministry agreed to put out a public apology through a press release on the matter and GJUT was waiting on this to happen.
Lewis stated that once this is done the agreement reached between the two parties will take effect.
He said he expects a press release to be issued today, Friday (June 16th) by the Ministry of Education but if it is not done, the union will be sticking to its original decision to suspend all fundraising activities for one year, beginning September 2017.