Teachers at West St. George Secondary School (WSGSS) are expected to write to the Ministry of Education today (Monday) over concerns that the government’s vaccine mandate could see educators lose their jobs and accrued benefits.
iWitness News was reliably informed that if the Ministry of Education refuses to meet with the educators, they will continue the “sit-in” that they started on Friday,
On Friday, vaccinated and unvaccinated teachers at the school staged a “sit-in” in protest against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which could see some of them lose their jobs if they do not take the jab.
The teachers attended their classes only to mark the attendance register and all but three of them spent the remainder of the work day sitting in the classroom.
“We take this opportunity to remind the school’s administration of our value as a staff and allow the Ministry of Education to have a glimpse of what the school system will look like in the absence of a driven and dedicated workforce,” said a Nov. 25 letter to the chief personnel officer, signed by 29 teachers at the school.
iWitness News was reliably informed that about 11 of the 31 teachers at the school are unvaccinated.
If these teachers do not get jabbed by this Friday, they could lose their jobs and their accrued benefit, in light of a law passed by Cabinet, mandating COVID-19 vaccines for a wide cross-section of government workers.
In the letter, the teachers said it was important to point out that the majority of the unvaccinated staff teach Form 5 students.
“Our fifth-formers are at a critical point in their preparation for CSEC exams of 2022. Any further upheaval; loss of instructional time, and absence of teachers will certainly be to their detriment,” the teachers said.
The letter said that the teachers gave of their time unselfishly during the volcanic eruption in April and throughout the return to school for Form 5 students in the ensuing period.
“We aim to raise your awareness of the difficulties that will ensue as a result of the loss of these experienced staff members at this very critical point in the school’s existence. Our focus has always been the students as we prepare them to move St. Vincent and the Grenadines forward. As teachers, we recognise and appreciate the significance of your contribution. We stand not merely as conduits for academic achievement but also as nation builders, moulding the men and women of tomorrow.
“Hence, we are categorically against the dismissal of teachers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the loss of their benefits due to their vaccination status,” the letter said.
On Friday, the vast majority of the teachers wore black in protest against the mandate.
When iWitness News visited the school around 11:30 a.m. Friday, it was uncharacteristically quiet.
A man wearing all black who was entering the school gate told iWitness News that he is a teacher and that his dress code was to show solidarity with teachers who had opted not to take the jab.
A student who exited the school compound at 11:58 a.m. said that he was in Form 5 and none of his teachers had attended their classes up to that point.
The student said that he was not returning to school after the lunch break.
One Form 1 student told iWitness News that he has five subjects on Friday, two of which are before lunch.
Only his Spanish teacher had turned up for class, the student told iWitness News.
In their letter, the teacher said their opposition was not to the COVID-19 vaccine but the law mandating vaccination for teachers.
“Many of us have been on staff here for 10 years and more and have enjoyed a level of cohesion that has made the West St. George Secondary School, the success that it has been, since its inception.”
The teachers said that they love their students and understand that their wellbeing has always been their priority.
“This is evidenced by the school’s success at the CSEC level of the CXC Examinations over the last 10 years, and the genuine bond that has been created between these students and the teachers, which has been maintained for many years after they have left the school.”
The teachers said that the vaccine law “threatens to undermine that cohesion and puts at risk the anticipated advancement of the student that we had envisioned, at the start of the face-to-face return to school”.
The teachers said “a level of psychological, academic and emotional degradation in our students” has resulted from the fact that students have been away from the classroom for almost three terms.
“It will require the collective experience of all of our teachers to bring back a level of normalcy to the school.
“As teachers, while we recognise the difficulties of the current pandemic, we hold firm that this (SR&O) will not be beneficial to any party, as we desperately try to avoid any further disruption to the already fragile environment of our disadvantaged student body.”
The teachers said that while, as a staff, they may not be similarly affected by the vaccine mandate, “we have shared our successes and set-backs, and will stand together, as we always have, as one body, one unit, one staff.”