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Tripartite council looking to mediate in BUT dispute

With tensions rising between unions and education officials over the reopening of public schools amid the second wave of COVID-19 infections, National Tripartite Council (NTC) Chairman Robert Farquharson said the council is seeking to referee a meeting between the parties.

“There were some concerns raised,” he said yesterday.

“The national exams is one thing. What happens in there post-COVID-19 with the national exams? How do we replace these exams? How do we deal with people who fail the exams? And so, these are some of the concerns we have. And we figured the best way to do that is to be a forum. So, we are going to invite all of the stakeholders at the council level and see if we can sit down and talk and resolve these issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Farquharson’s comments came as unions representing educators expressed concern over the sitting of the national exams and the reopening of the school year next month.

The concerns center around the preparedness of schools in the wake of a pandemic.

Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said there are suspected COVID-19 cases at four schools on New Providence.

Farquharson said executives from both the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Bahamas Educators Managerial Union (BEMU) reached out to the NTC and requested mediation in a meeting with Ministry of Education officials.

“We need to find a mechanism to sit with the Ministry of Education, to sit with the private educators and find out what’s the best way to resolve the issues,” he said.

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

Last month, it was 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-19 cases in the country, will reopen for face-to-face instruction.

“One of the concerns we have is how our school system will react to the COVID-19 environment,” he said.

“Many of our schools do not have the infrastructure to facilitate the social distancing program. So, when the minister of education indicated that the Ministry of Education schools would begin virtual schooling, we thought that was a good idea.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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