Education officials have privately said they are pleased with teachers’ delivery of education online but have refused to say so publicly.
“Teachers have been working. They have been working the entire term online. Even ministry officials have mentioned that they showed up to students’ classes on MS Teams and they were very impressed,” Vanrick Williams, acting first vice-president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union told a press conference last week.
“And the [union’s] president would have made the remark, ‘Well, say it out loud. Make it public.’
“If you are impressed if you see that teachers have been working tirelessly online, don’t just say it to us. Say it to the general public. Again, clear up the misinterpretation, clear up the misinformation,” Williams said.
There was tension last week between the Ministry of Education and the teachers’ union over face-to-face professional development sessions.
The sessions came as students return to the physical classroom on April 12 for the first time this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students had been continuing their education online.
Speaking at the same press conference, Abdon Whyte, the union’s acting public relations officer, said it is not true that teachers were at home getting paid for not doing anything, as some members of the public seemed to think.
“The ministry set up a system in which they stipulated the amount of hours that the students should be engaged online and the breaks in between and teachers are following those. I am sure that sick leaves are down. Even if a teacher is sick, they still log on and teach their class,” Whyte said.
He said there are parents who need to pay attention and ensure that their children log on and attend their online classes.
“But you can’t blame teachers for that. Teachers do their job. In every system, you have good apples, but the majority of our teachers are attending the sessions, are providing the material that the students need to learn, and they have been doing an excellent job of it,” Whyte said.
“So this issue of demonising teachers and ‘teachers don’t want to return to school and teachers don’t want to work and teachers getting paid for months and they’re home’, no, we’re not home not doing anything; we are actually working.”
Whyte noted that people are completing university degrees without seeing the inside of a classroom.
“One person is saying teachers can’t teach without entering a classroom when they are earning their degrees being thousands of miles away from their teachers…” Whyte said.
He was concerned about the safety of teachers, staff and students when school reopens.
“If at a health facility in our country there is an outbreak, how can the ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education guarantee teachers that they are safe,” he said.
Whyte was referring to the outbreak of COVID-19 at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre, where over 100 patients and staff tested positive for the viral illness.