In straw poll, teachers vote in favor of industrial action, Wilson says

Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said last night that according to the preliminary results from a straw poll, teachers in The Bahamas voted in favor of taking industrial action ahead of the new school year.

The straw poll was conducted among teachers at each school and collected by the union’s shop steward.

The exact number of teachers who voted in favor was unavailable up to press time.

Wilson told The Nassau Guardian, “Still awaiting results but results from schools thus far is in the affirmative…in favor of taking industrial action.”

Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd could not be reached for comment last night.

Wilson said teachers are becoming “fearful” about returning to school.

“They are concerned that the employer, that the Ministry of Education, does not care about them,” she said.

She added, “We will not be sitting ducks and watch teachers and students become sick because the employer did not take the requisite protocols and put them in place to ensure that we are safe.”

Earlier in the day, Lloyd said the government is prioritizing the safety of all teachers and students across the country.

He noted that the theme for the upcoming school year is “safety first, education always”. 

“There will be no execution of any opening strategy unless it can be done safely,” Lloyd said.

“I wish to repeat again that every decision that is made by the Ministry of Education is made on the one fundamental point that no stakeholder — no student, parent, teacher, educator, administrator, visitor or staff — is put in a position of vulnerability or harm by whatever decision is executed.” 

Schools across The Bahamas have been closed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

Last month, Lloyd announced that both public and private schools will reopen on October 5 with schools on Abaco, Eleuthera and New Providence reopening virtually. Public school teachers are mandated to provide virtual instruction from their school campuses. 

Schools on the remaining islands, including Grand Bahama, which has the second highest number of COVID cases in the country, will reopen for face-to-face instruction.

Wilson said she is “very concerned” about the reopening of schools for face-to-face instruction.

“We’re not confident that the Ministry of Education has the capacity to implement health and safety protocols for 47,000 students and 4,000 teachers throughout the whole entire Bahamas,” she said.

“You would be aware that Monday, September 7, schools reopened for teachers only and that gave us a dry run to see how [the Ministry of] Education would actually perform. We are very concerned because a lot of the school did not even have hand sanitizers. They did not have thermometers. They did not have soap.” 

Lloyd declined to comment on Wilson’s claims about the lack of precautionary equipment at the campus.  

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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