Although their numbers were small, the message was loud as the nation’s students sounded their disapproval of the handling of the 25% gratuity payment between the Keith Mitchell-led government and Public Sector Unions.
A small section of students from the St. David’s Catholic Secondary School (SDCSS), Presentation Brothers’ College (PBC) and St. Joseph’s Convent, St. Andrew marched last week Thursday from the car park of SDCSS to the entrance of the La Sagesse Playing Field calling for a speedy solution to the impasse.
Chants of “25%…a set of flies” and “Tell me what we need… Education” were heard coming from the lips of the students who called for their CSEC time to be salvaged as they reiterated that CXC would not reschedule the sitting of exams for Grenada.
Speaking to reporters, just before taking to the street to express their frustration, organiser of the event, Latonya Cadoo said there must be a better way to negotiate the issue between the government and the public sector bargaining bodies.
According to Latonya a lot of the students especially those at the higher level or even the Grade 6 are affected by the decision made by the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) that teachers should remain at home on strike.
“I don’t believe that is the best alternative. I believe that they could come to an agreement that teachers teach while they’re coming to a final decision at the table (as) being at home isn’t the best solution for us”, she said.
“We have CXC coming up … and half of the syllabus isn’t yet completed. We have SBA’s due and half of them haven’t even started as yet…I believe that there is a better alternative to this,” she added.
Spokesperson of the event Daniella Noel feared that her CSEC subjects lies on the line in the battle for gratuity among the warring parties.
She said: “It’s not the best alternative for the teachers to stay away from the classroom because as a fifth former I am heavily affected as I have many CXC subjects doing which have a lot of SBA’s and different orals that we need to practice for.
“(The Teachers) being away from the classroom is only making it much difficult for me…kinda burdens me a little bit, knowing that after all this is over, if it is not over by December then I would have much more work to do by January,” she added.
PBC’s Brandon Flemming addressed the issue of the protest action being politically influenced as put forward by Education Minister, Emmalin Pierre.
“We’re having a demonstration here today to broadcast the message that students are suffering from the ongoing battle between the unions and the government and it’s time that the government see the need to find a resolution to the situation.
“… I just want to say that the demonstration here this morning is not politically affiliated and the students have no interest in being a part of the politics of the situation and it’s an independent expression of opinion from the students and we just want to get back to school and return to normal schedule as soon as possible.
Shamira Bartholomew of the St. David’s Catholic Secondary School (SDCSS) chipped in: “It’s not nice that teachers would have to be out of school and we the students of the higher forms would be affected and we just want the government and the Grenada Union of Teachers to come to an agreement on this matter so that we can return to school as normal because we have SBAs to complete and half of the syllabus isn’t done as yet and this is affecting us badly.
“…We just want to come out and ask them to hear our cry so that they would return to school,” she remarked.
Giving solidarity to the students and teachers was executive member of The Renaissance Party, Junior Francis who described the impasse as a just fight by the teachers and other public officers to secure their 25% pension and gratuity payment from the Mitchell regime.
Francis said: “They shouldn’t be on the street with this, the teachers should be honoured, we should treat them as they are our special gem because they form the minds of the people. When people are elected in office, they should be fighting for us, not against us. They should be fighting to improve the lives of us, not to work against us. They should be making laws that would benefit us, not to work against us…”, he said.
“…It (the students’ protest) should change their (government) mind…members are strength and government should know that government come and government go, the people put them there and the people have the all power to take them out and if they’re not going to do what they were elected to do, they will be removed (at) some point in time.”, he added.
Francis went on to say: “I see it necessary that if they can’t see it fit in their heart to give the teachers what they deserve…why is it that government ministers, they make sure they are well taken care of, while the people that actually form the minds of the country (are) treated as underdogs…I reject that, that is unacceptable.”