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In the aftermath of recent activities outside and within the SVG Teachers’ Union, it is only fitting that the voices from below be heard. I wish to offer readers a synopsis of the SVGTU leadership from the onset of the ULP administration to the year 2014. As citizens of a developing nation, critical thinkers are pivotal to its development. As a critical thinker, I have thought about the role of the Teachers’ Union in SVG, more so, the role of those entrusted with the responsibility to look after teachers’ interests (from president down to committee members). The following summary of the union’s leadership serves to illustrate my “point of thought”.
In 2000, Mr. Fitz Jones headed the union. Before his tenure as president, he held the status of a Qualified Assistant Teacher (QAT). He was later elevated to labour commissioner. Mr. Oswald Robinson became the leader in 2000 and was promoted to a Head Teacher soon after. The infamous Otto Sam followed in 2004. I can still hear the voices from below saying, “don’t bite the hands that feed you”. He began as a QAT, became a graduate and head teacher during his stint. He no longer makes headline news in SVG. Joy Matthews made good use of her short tenure as president of the SVG Teachers’ union (2006- 2007). Before her role as president, she held the status of a QAT. She quickly made it to head teacher. Due to hiccups within the union, Sheldon Govia ended her reign. He was appointed as president in 2007. The statuses he held before and after his presidency mirror that of Ms Matthews. Mr. Elvis Charles (2008-2009), in my opinion is the most successful past Teachers’ Union president to date. He began his stint as a graduate teacher. However, he is a former Permanent Secretary and former CEO of the Housing and Land Development Corproation. This took him less than five years. Congratulations sir! My good friend, Mr. Ron Clarke, was appointed in the year 2010. Before his leadership role, he was also a QAT. He is currently the principal of a rural secondary school. In 2012, teachers decided to elect Mr. Oswald Robinson as president again.
It is important to note that these individuals possess at least the minimum requirements for the positions they hold. However, what role did they play during their stints at the top of the Teachers’ Union? What role are they playing now? Whose interest did they represent? How many fingers do they show when they discuss teachers’ business — three or four fingers? Did they participate in the recent teachers’ strike? DID THEY SELL OUT? ULP supporters refused to participate in the recent strike; NDP supporters reflect on the three teachers that resigned last election and are still out of the service.
The recent strike or “so-called strike” has shown the division and weakness within the SVG Teacher’s Union. Several executive members of the Teachers’ Union ignored the strike. Teachers deserve better representation and as such, I propose we get rid of the entire executive board in the next Teachers’ Union election. Disloyal members must go; weak leaders must go! I hereby signal my intention to contest the next Teachers’ Union election. The late Mr. Ray Laborde, during many of our conversations, admonished me to actively participate in our union’s activities and provided me with much needed information. My new team will put teachers’ interests first and act independent of any other institution but collaborate and compromise to enhance the teaching profession. My fellow teachers, statistics do not lie but people can lie with statistics. Critically evaluate the information provided and make your own informed decisions about the role of the present Teachers’ Union and those we put in charge of our affairs. “MEN WHO ARE NOTHING; WHO ASPIRE TO BE NOTHING WILL ALWAYS BE NOTHING.”
Dedicated to the late Ray Laborde. May his soul rest in peace.
Vanrick D. Williams
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