President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis has said that although certain directives were given to teachers in relation to the industrial action over the payment of gratuity, they are still concerned about the well-being of students.
Lewis was speaking to reporters at a press conference held last Friday along with President General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Andre Lewis and President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachael Roberts.
He addressed the concerns being expressed in some quarters about effect the industrial action may have on students.
Lewis noted that the fight is not only for the teachers but also for the students as they too stand to lose, if a clear consensus is not met on the issue.
He said: “First and foremost, these children are the nation’s children who are the governors of the nation, if they were or are the teachers, we would not be here today, and they are the politicians. So, don’t tell me the mother and the father neglect their duty and the uncle has to take up all the slack.
“…We are the guardians, yes we understand but government has a responsibility too. These are the nation’s children and if we are suffering, don’t tell me the students would not be suffering too because we give them almost everything,” he added.
Lewis stressed that throughout the school year, teachers go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure students are comfortable and safe.
“We raise funds, we barbecue, we give them monies, and I have known situations where teachers take their last $5, give a child to pay and go in the staff room and borrow a $5 from a colleague to go home, that’s what we do. We give them breakfast, lunch, dinner, we give them shoes”, he said.
According to the GUT boss, he ran a programme last year singlehandedly where “I gave every school in St. Andrew’s, two needy students, a complete bag ready for school, that’s what we do as teachers”.
Last Tuesday, the Public Sector Unions issued a work to rule order to its members where they were directed to do only what was expected of them and nothing more.
Lewis said this is being executed to a certain extent as teachers still have students in mind.
“We say we’re going to a work to rule and the amount of calls I get, ‘Mr Pres, just give me a little bly today, I have a project finishing’, ‘Mr. Pres, give me a little bly, we have a little football game, they announce it late’, ‘Mr Pres, give me a little bly’.
“These are the teachers, they want to work to rule but the students on their mind. But what has the government done in all of this – SBAs are still being marked, I know that. They won’t tell me they’re doing it, they’re still correcting it and give back the students to complete, they still marking the papers, some teachers are still sending assignments via whatsapp or email for the students. I know, I’ve been in the school system for 28 years.
“…Although the union say work to rule and they obeying…because they care and they love but what has the government done? Tell me one single act…no school feeding, they have not provided the school feeding money since about April/May of this year. They have not provided furniture for many of the schools. Teachers buy their own chalk, erasers everything.
“We supply almost 75% of the needs of the school as teachers. We know what we do…we understand what we do, we love what we do but the government must show some responsibility and take some responsibility in what is happening now.