July 11, 2014
SVGTU accuses Min of Education of sabotage

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) is accusing the Ministry of Education of trying to “disrupt, perhaps sabotage” the efforts of the organisation in educating its members.

In a press release dated Tuesday, July 9, 2014, sent by Public Relations Officer Wendy Bynoe, {{more}}the SVGTU stated that it had taken note of the Ministry’s habit of scheduling many of its activities for teachers on the same dates that the SVGTU had previously advertised its own union activities.

“This clash has been occurring with greater frequency in recent times and is becoming a matter of prime concern,” stated the SVGTU’s press release.

When contacted, the Ministry of Education denied that there was any attempt on its part – deliberate or otherwise – to disrupt or sabotage the SVGTU’s efforts.

Lou-Anne Gilchrist, chief education officer, said that the Ministry views the Union with “unconditional positive regard” and is disappointed that its representatives have responded to the situation with contempt rather than seek to resolve the matter directly.

The SVGTU alleges that there were three main instances when these clashes occurred over the past year. The first was on November 12, 2013, when the Union hosted its Education Conference and the Ministry of Education planned a principals’ meeting for the same date.

On April 16, 2014, the day of SVGTU’s Biennial Convention, the Ministry of Education held a counsellors’ workshop; and more recently, the Ministry has scheduled a Professional Development Workshop for Grade 3 and 4 teachers regarding the CPEA process. This workshop will run from July 21 – 25, which clashes with the SVGTU’s ‘In-service Summer Institute 2014 Workshops, scheduled to take place from July 14 – 25, in conjunction with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and the Ministry of Education.

The press release stated: “The SVGTU remains the recognized representative body for teachers in St Vincent and the Grenadines and views this planned conflict with contempt, as it flies in the face of the Ministry’s oft-stated mantra of ‘forging working partnerships’.”

Glichrist acknowledged that the clashes did indeed take place, as stated by the SVGTU, but said that “extenuating circumstances” led to this.

“It is doubtful that the principals’ meeting of November 12, 2013, caused a reduction in the attendance at the education conference… The principals and officers who were asked directly by the SVGTU to make presentations were in no way impeded from doing so by the Ministry of Education,” she said.

In regard to the second activity that took place on April 16, Gilchrist said that its agenda focused on addressing the psycho-social and academic needs of students and their families, following the December 2013 floods.

“Only one teacher indicated that he/she had planned to attend the SVGTU’s Biennial Convention on the said day,” said the chief education officer. “This teacher was, therefore, not present at the meeting of counsellors.”

Regarding the summer workshops planned by the SVGTU, Gilchrist said that the organisation had indicated that this would commence on July 14 and run for one week (not two); therefore, the Ministry had scheduled its professional development workshop for the following week.

“The facilitators of [our] workshop have indicated their availability for July 21 – 25, 2014. Any change in the date will occasion scheduling difficulties for the Ministry of Education, as the facilitators will not be available afterwards,” she explained.

Gilchrist went on to say that she is of the opinion that the Ministry of Education’s workshop will not negatively impact teachers’ attendance at that of the Union’s, and pointed out that the SVGTU’s workshop is fully endorsed by the Ministry of Education.

“It would, therefore, be counterintuitive if the Ministry of Education were to attempt to sabotage this and any other activity of the SVGTU.”

Gilchrist added that although the Ministry of Education is “…of the view that a symbiotic relationship between itself and the SVGTU ought to, and can exist in the interest of the development of education,” any attempts made to “impugn the integrity” of the Ministry’s members will be addressed emphatically.