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Dismissed teachers Ann-Marie Ballantyne, left, and Zena McDonald at the protest in Kingstown on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.
Dismissed teachers Ann-Marie Ballantyne, left, and Zena McDonald at the protest in Kingstown on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.
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A number of educators who were dismissed from their jobs last December because they are unvaccinated against COVID-19 say that they will stand by their decision despite the financial hardships they have endured since.

“The past months, it has been a bit rough but God is good and we are surviving,” Zena McDonald, who was fired on Dec. 16 after 23 years on the job, told iWitness News on Thursday.

“For as long as the court would carry the matter, I will stand by my decision. I will never ever take that vaccine because I do not think it is safe for my body, it is not healthy for me so I will not take it,” she said at the protest in Kingstown, organised by the Teachers’ Union.

The Teachers Union, as well as the Public Service Union, is suing the government over the vaccine mandate and the resulting dismissals.

McDonald told iWitness News that she decided not to take a COVID-19 vaccine “because I did my research about the vaccine and I realised it was really hurting a lot of people”.

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Zena McDonald
Dismissed teacher Zena McDonald at the protest in Kingstown on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.

She said she decided that she “did not want to be a guinea pig, because this was a new vaccine and it was really a trial…

“So, I just decided this is my body and don’t want this vaccine in my body and I decided I will not take it, so I did not take it.”

McDonald told iWitness News that her last day in the classroom was Dec. 16, when her principal presented her with a letter, dated Dec. 7.

“On that very same day when I was about to leave school after we finished giving the children their reports and so on, the principal told me she had something for me. So, when she brought it, it was the letter from the Ministry of Education telling me that I [was] deemed to have resigned, even though I was on the job all along.”

‘I did not abandon my job’

Meanwhile Ann-Marie Ballantyne, another dismissed teacher, told iWitness News that she will not be reapplying “because I did not abandon my duty; I did not abandon my job. I did not resign”.

Unvaccinated teachers who are rehired will have to be tested for COVID-19 at intervals determined by the Ministry of Health, although testing is required for vaccinated teachers nor for students.

Students are not required to be vaccinated and vaccinated people can contract or spread COVID-19 just as easily as unvaccinated people.

Ballantyne said that requiring that unvaccinated teachers be tested is “discriminatory.

“Because by now –I mean, a long time ago, we knew this but I could use by now for now — they both mexinated and mexinated, so called vaccinated and unvaccinated, can get and spread the virus, they can contract and spread the virus.”

She said that if the government is requesting testing, it should apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

“And also, there’s a problem with the testing. I mean… St. Vincent’s basically behind, the Prime Minister is behind. He should be dropping those measures by now. Also, the testing, as we know is EUA — emergency use authorisation. So, I have the freedom to refuse the test or to accept.”

Ann Marie Shefflorn Ballantyne
Dismissed teachers Ann-Marie, left, and Shefflorn Ballantyne and their son at the protest in Kingstown on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.

Both Ballantyne and her husband, Shefflorn Ballantyne, who is also an educator, were terminated from their jobs because they are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Well, we have been making it by the grace of God. We trust God to provide for us and he has been doing so because we know we stood to what is right,” she told iWitness News.

“Our freedom of conscience, our liberty of conscience given to us by God. We stood up for that. And as a result, we know that God is … taking care of us; he has been taking care of us. We have been able to sustain ourselves with the little that we have.”

She said she and her husband have started two small businesses, Bally Academy — where they tutor French and accounting and they also have a vegan ice cream business.

“So that has helped a lot, by God’s grace.”

Ballantyne said she was looking forward to the outcome of the lawsuit that the unions have brought against the government.

“I hope, by the grace of God, justice is served and that the teachers will be reinstated because we have been unfairly treated. Our liberty of conscience has been violated.”

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