As national examinations resumed across the country yesterday, some teachers in the public school system did not show up for work following health and safety concerns over COVID-19.
Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson claimed over 1,000 teachers called in.
Ministry of Education officials confirmed that some teachers did call in but did not give a specific figure and noted that the action did not affect the examinations.
Wilson, who appeared on Guardian Radio 96.9 FM talk show “The Revolution” with host Juan McCartney, was asked about how many teachers called in.
“I would think over 1,000,” she replied.
On Sunday night, Wilson sent a voice note to union members asking them to call in.
“You are calling in to demand that your school, your workplace [and] your environment is safe, clean and healthy,” she said.
“You are calling in because you want six feet distancing between yourselves and students and some protective barrier or plexiglass around your work station. You are calling in because you need the right tools to teach your students, laptops internet connectivity. You are calling in to support the union’s position on work from home policy. You are calling in because teachers’ in The Bahamas lives matter.”
Minister of Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd said yesterday that he was disappointed by the action.
“[It] is also rather regrettable that the sentiments come from a vital stakeholder, the union, in this rather challenging and difficult time that has been most disruptive to our Bahamian society especially our education system,” Lloyd said.
“We should be working in harmonious collaboration with the ministry and other stakeholders including most especially our students.”
Lloyd, who later appeared on “The Revolution” yesterday, said that the national exams were not impacted.
“Again, we have to be ready, we have more than enough invigilators,” Lloyd said.
“We call them runners. People who stay posted by the bathroom if you need to secure paper, materials, supplies, or whatever. More than enough [of them] on all of our 15 centers here in New Providence and through the Family of Islands.
“Centers are 100 percent safe. Staff, all of them, the custodians have been properly and effectively trained by EMRAD, the Environmental Monitoring Risk and Assessment Division and they are up to speed with it and they qualify to be custodians for the cleaning and sanitization.
“If outside vendors are required, then we do that.”
Director of Education Marcellus Taylor also refuted claims by the union president of a lack of health protocols in place at public schools.
“It is from our perspective untrue that teachers do not have adequate work conditions,” Taylor said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“We have provided the PPEs that were prescribed at this time and the hand sanitizers and whatever else is required. Most of our teachers are at work today and they are getting on with business.”
Last week, the overwhelming majority of teachers in the country, who voted in a straw poll, voted in favor of taking industrial action ahead of the new school year, Wilson said.
She said teachers are “fearful” about returning to school as COVID-19 continues to spread in the country.
There were nearly 3,000 cases in the country up to last night.
On Sunday, Taylor told The Nassau Guardian that there are suspected COVID-19 cases at Columbus Primary School, D.W. Davis Junior High School, C.I. Gibson Senior High School and Stapledon School.
Wilson said union members should look out for more details concerning another industrial action today.