Even as the vaccination rate among teachers continues to increase, President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) Oswald Robinson has called on all teachers, whether vaccinated or not, to turn up for work and stage a go slow as the union continues to push back against the vaccine mandate.
SR&O No. 28 of 2021 – The Public Health (Public bodies Special Measures) Rules, 2021came into effect last Friday, November 19 and under that law, all teachers, unless they have received an exemption, are prohibited from entering the workplace unless they have received at least one dose of a COVID19 vaccine.
In a release dated November 21, Robinson encouraged teachers to continue physical and online teaching; take photographic evidence of their presence at school daily; gradually reduce the amount of work they are required to do and call the union to provide updates on any necessary development.
But according to the SR&O, any employee who enters the workplace in contravention of the Rules “commits an act of misconduct and is liable to be disciplined in accordance with the (a) Public Service Commission Regulations or any other relevant written law, in the case of a public officer; (b) or relevant laws that regulate the service of the employee, in the case of every other employee.”
Minister of Education, Curtis King yesterday told SEARCHLIGHT that as at Friday 19, just over 70 per cent of secondary school teachers, 69.97 per cent of primary school teachers and in excess of 61 per cent of teachers of the TVET institute had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
And, though King is satisfied with the uptick in vaccination among teachers, he is still appealing to others to get vaccinated and explained that the lower vaccination rate among teachers does not reflect much differently from the rest of society, since there has been hesitancy among many Vincentians to take a COVID19 vaccine.
“I would say that teachers, they have been reluctant, and I am happy with the uptick they and … now even though it is late, I am still calling on teachers, those who have not yet been vaccinated to go and get vaccinated,” the education minister said.
King noted that in order for the country to start operating at an optimal level again, certain measures must be put in place by the government.
“The medical people have said that ‘look the best weapon in the fight to suppress and to control this coronavirus is the vaccine”. One hundred ninety-three countries, basically all the independent countries in the world, have accepted this medical advice and have been implementing the vaccine. I would say to persons “look man the vaccine is safe, they have administered billions in terms of doses and despite all the propaganda, and let me come back here to St Vincent and the Grenadines, there is not one single soul that you can say died or somehow was severely affected by taking the vaccine,” the Minister of Education stated.
However, King said, “The point must be made that, on a whole, the vast majority are following the rules….”
The SR&O no 28 of 2021 classifies teachers as frontline workers, and they are therefore required to be vaccinated unless granted an exemption on medical and religious grounds.
But, the education minister explained that in order to gain a religious exemption, this must be clearly outlined in the churches’ rules and orders.
“… When we talk about religious exemption, you can’t just come in and say I don’t believe in vaccine because I am Christian. No, it has to be part of your religious practice….” he explained.
King, a former educator noted that a teacher who has not taken at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be deemed absent even if they show up to their work place.
Yesterday, SEARCHLIGHT visited the compounds of the St. Vincent Grammar School and the Girls High School at Arnos Vale and witnessed teachers being allowed to enter the compound without showing proof of vaccination.
While the SR&O should have become effective from Friday November 19, public servants, who have been classified as frontline workers were given until Monday to show proof of having taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Minister told Searchlight that he is willing and open to having dialogue with the members of the Teachers’ Union.
He pointed out that he had sent a copy of the new SR&O to the president of the union after he saw a clipping which he stated was “laced with misinformation.”
King rejected claims that the Ministry of Education was creating any exemption for principals.
‘What I would say clearly the union has its role to play, but I am suggesting to the union that given the seriousness of this issue that they treat it with a little bit of seriousness. Some of what I heard suggest lack of seriousness in relation to this issue, and while they have their concerns, and they ought to have their concerns where they think concerns should be expressed, I think we are open to have dialogue with them. We have been doing so… if the executive of this union is truthful, they would tell you that we have had several meetings…”
The education minister said that they are simply asking for compliance so that things could return to some sort of normalcy.