Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has announced that at the end of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government’s first term in office, graduate teachers would have benefited from salary increases amounting to nearly 50 per cent.
These statistics were divulged on Thursday in light of recent strike action, which the Government has labelled political and illegal, led by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) for a pay hike.
At his weekly press conference, the Vice President outlined that within the past four years, graduate teachers in the education sector have benefited from a 33-35 per cent increase in wages.
“Teachers have gotten from the 2015 level, more than a 50 per cent increase, but under this Government alone, graduate teachers have gotten about 35 per cent increase since we got into office…Conceivably, it would be close to 50 per cent in the five years,” the VP noted.
According to him, the objective is to ensure that more teachers enter the skilled category by making such investments. This will ultimately increase the quality of education and learning for children.
“We want them to be trained, and we are providing the opportunity for them to be trained to grow higher. So massive allocation of resources in the budget to the sector, improvement of working conditions, improvement of salaries, providing more opportunities for training. This has been a clear-cut plan for the education sector…We want them to not stay there,” he stated.
More than 3000 teachers have graduated since 2020 while 4000 have either completed or are undergoing Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) programmes. The Government is aiming to have 100 per cent trained teachers in the system by next year.Currently, a trained graduate teacher earns 237,736 – a difference of 61,741 from 2019.
Jagdeo also drew attention to the fact that $135 billion has been allocated to the education sector this year to better working conditions for teachers. This is significantly more than the $52.7 billion allocated by the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition in its last budget before demitting office.
A comparison shows that this works out to be $694,000 per child for the 180,000 students in the sector, as opposed to $310,000 per year for 170,000 students in 2019.
With more teachers added to the sector and teachers in training receiving a full salary of about $104,000, the teacher-per-child ratio is currently 12.69 – better than those of 156 countries globally.
“That shows a commitment to hiring people in the sector…We have now smaller classrooms. Many teachers might still be teaching big classes. But why is that happening? I think it’s time now to examine why some of these things are happening,” said the VP.
Meanwhile, the transparency and accountability of the GTU came under scrutiny, as it was discovered that their last audited statement was done in 1989, and financial statements to the Registrar were last submitted in 2004.
“Anywhere in the world, they would have been struck off and the membership would have been in uproar, but a cabal runs this union…Where are your accounts for 30 years? Why have they not been audited? How much money did you collect? The billions that you collected, where did it go? Why are you violating your own constitution that you have to do this?” the VP highlighted.
Last week, Jagdeo had contended that the countrywide strike action called by the GTU was part of the Opposition’s tactic to mislead teachers for its own political agenda.At the helm of the Union’s leadership is its General Secretary, Coretta McDonald – who is also an Opposition Member of Parliament (MP). Calling it a political strike, Jagdeo had urged teachers not to fall prey to such traps.The GTU had initially shared that the protest would last for two weeks, culminating on February 16.
The Education Ministry issued a statement this week, stating that many teachers nationwide have refused to participate in the industrial action to ensure students are prepared for the upcoming National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.
Previously, the GTU had proposed 41 areas identified for better working conditions for teachers. Over the past three years, the Education Ministry has fulfilled 25 of those requests.
The areas in which the Ministry and the Union have not reached an agreement include salary increases for some scales (the Ministry has gone above GTU’s request for some scales); allowances; rehired teachers paid at the scale that they retired at; housing fund (which the Union has repeatedly failed to give a way forward for although the fund has a few hundred million dollars put there by the Government) and salary scales for different Heads of Department (HODS) and Sixth Form Deputy Heads; payment for the marking of School-Based Assessments (SBAs), and house lots for teachers in each new housing scheme.