Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves today (Wednesday) appealed to teachers to continue to deliver online classes even as the union has voted to withdraw their services today and two days next week.
“I am disappointed to learn that a number of teachers, not a large number, who attended an online meeting of the Teachers’ Union, that a decision has been taken not to do online teaching for three days, today being one of the days,” Gonsalves said on his weekly show on NBC Radio
“Now, why would anybody want to do a thing like that? The reason, I understand, is that they want to protest against teachers being frontline workers and requiring vaccination,” the prime minister said.
The government has classified teachers as frontline workers, meaning that if they want to continue in their post, teachers will have to take a COVID-19 vaccine, unless they receive a medical exemption.
The union, in a press release, on Tuesday, said that a virtual meeting on Monday, decided to file an injunction against the government on the vaccination issue.
The meeting, which has an optimal attendance of 183 members, also voted to refrain from online teaching today, as well as next Monday and next week Friday — Oct. 14.
“The membership will reconvene before the 18th October, 2021 to strategize the way forward,” the union said.
Students were scheduled to return to the physical classroom this past Monday, for the first time since December 2020.
However, a surge in COVID-19 cases, which has seen the country recording some 1,2000a active cases since Sept. 9, has put that on hold for two weeks in the first instances.
To date, there are 1,279 active cases of COVID-19 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“You want to punish the students? You want to hold the country to ransom? What is so difficult about taking the vaccine? Teachers are, in fact, frontline workers.
“We were seeking to see whether something could be done there but the demand [is] coming from the teachers who are vaccinated and other teachers too and parents and what’s happening in other parts of the world, progressive countries, the teachers are vaccinated.”
The prime minister said he was hoping that teachers would have voluntarily taken the COVID-19 jab.
“… I don’t have the full figures but the numbers, certainly, are below one-third,” he said, referring to the fraction of teachers who have taken a COVID-19 vaccine.
He noted that in Barbados, 80% of teachers have taken the jab.
“Now, if you have that number, you may not in those circumstances say that you should give the choice of either you vaccinate or find another job because of the large number of the teachers who have gone and taken the vaccine.
“Please, take this vaccine nuh — for yourself, for your children’s sake, your students. You can’t abandon your students at times like this. You can’t compromise their safety, you can’t compromise their education. I don’t know what could get in the heads of persons who are responsible to come to such kinds of conclusions. What you want to do? This is politics? Is this just vanity? What is this? Because it just doesn’t have any rational basis.”
Gonsalves said that teaching is a job.
“Teachers are not doing ‘a favour’. It’s not voluntary work. People are paid for doing this job. Come on please, take the vaccine, teachers. I understand that more and more people are taking it. Let’s not wait until the regulations come into force. Let’s get vaccinated.”
As of Sunday, 34,386 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in SVG, representing 13,556 second doses and 20,830 first doses.
The country has recorded 33 CVID-19 deaths, 21 of which occurred since Sept. 9.
Meanwhile, in an audio message to teachers on Wednesday, Union President, Oswald Robinson said that the union is “committed to the education and welfare of our nation”.
He said that throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the union has implemented multiple strategies to ensure that students were meaningfully engaged.
“We have also demonstrated such through our many donations to students and teachers during and after the eruption of La Soufriere. Our commitment is paramount at this time that some of our teachers are threatened with the loss of their jobs come Oct. 15.
“We call on all of our teachers to be united. Stand resolute to the cause. Stand up for the rights of all.”
He said that the withdrawal of teaching services online “is to send a clear message to the relevant authorities that we reject mandatory vaccination…
“We solicit the cooperation of all of our members, vaccinated and unvaccinated as we go through this very important period. This is a very important battle to defend our fundamental rights and freedoms,” Robinson said.