…second round of conciliation talks scheduled for today…MoE to present “revised position”By Davina Ramdass, Andrew Carmichael, Utamu Belle and Mohanlall SeulallSome of the teachers in Region Ten who were a part of Wednesday’s protestThere was much hype at the Education Ministry’s Brickdam office, where several teachers again lined the roadway, as the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) called for Education Minister Nicolette Henry to be removed from office as she was labelled “disrespectful and unfit” for the office, during day three of the countrywide strike.“We are calling for the President to remove her from that position because she is not fit to be there… the Education Minister is very disrespectful, that’s what its saying to us and we are going to call for the President to remove her from office because we don’t feel comfortable having her there. Put her somewhere else,” expressed the General Secretary of the Union, Coretta McDonald.The organized picketers on Brickdam braving the weather to call for increased wagesShe explained that it seems as if the Minister is unconcerned about her teachers and their living conditions, even as she highlighted the fact that since the GTU presented its proposal to the Ministry, it has not made an offer, with regards to what it can provide at this time.“We don’t get the impression that our Minister was representing her teachers, because if the Minister was serious about education, she would have been making full representation to her colleagues at Cabinet to cater for education,” McDonald pointed out.She went on to say that she remains unsure of whether or not the Minister is ‘serious’ about education, owing to its slow approach to address the issue. “GTU submitted a proposal. A proposal says that it’s a document that is up for discussion and I don’t know why the Minister can’t understand that… we submitted a proposal, it was for the Ministry of Education to come to us now with a counter proposal and we have not yet received one”.In this snap, the rank was now exiting his vehicle to conduct checks at Aurora, Essequibo Coast schoolIt was on that note that the General Secretary reminded that the Union is not demanding a 40 per cent increase, as was previously reported, as they are now ready to accept a ‘substantial’ amount.In response to a question she said she is not worried about the teachers losing their jobs or being replaced since that cannot be done. The GTU representative explained that although the Ministry is currently on the hunt for volunteer teachers and have gone on a hiring spree, “It is the right of the teacher we have out here to take industrial action and this by no means will cause our teachers to lose their jobs.”McDonald also expressed her views on the Minister, who she claims is peddling fake information in the media. According to her, the Education Minister would have told reporters at a press conference held on Monday evening that a mere 10 per cent of teachers were not present in school, which therefore implies that their strike has no severe effect.The union activist told Guyana Times that the number of teachers present at Wednesday’s protest should be evident that the Minister’s statements are “packed with lies to sugar coat what the reality is.”No conciliationEssequibo teachers protestingThe GTU is firm on the decision it took to not attend conciliation talks with the Education Ministry and the Social Cohesion Ministry’s Labour Department as was related to this newspaper by McDonald, due to trust issue.Her statement comes at a time where thousands of teachers remain on strike, thereby affecting the learning generation.The Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle on Wednesday issued an invitation to the two parties at loggerheads. The meeting, which is expected to be convened in the Boardroom of the Labour Department at 13:30h is a rescheduled one, due to the no-show of the GTU at the previous session on August 30.The GTU had said they received little notice of that event.The Union has since noted that its position to not attend the meeting remains the same, especially since the mediator, Minister Keith Scott, was recently quoted in the media referring to striking teachers as “uncaring” and “selfish”.Teachers from Berbice during Wednesday’s protestThe executives of the GTU have since expressed no-confidence in the conciliation process due to the Minister’s statement. On Tuesday however, a remorseful Scott issued an apology to the teachers.In a release originating from the Ministry of the Presidency, Scott was quoted expressing regret for the statements.“Revised position”The Education Minister is expected to present its “revised position” at today’s conciliation talks with the GTU, in an effort to call off the nationwide strike and protests.This was related to this newspaper on Wednesday by a reliable source at the Ministry. According to the source, Henry would have said, “We are trusting that the Guyana Teacher’ Union will be in attendance at that meeting so that we will have an opportunity at that meeting to present what would be the revised position from both parties.”GTU had rejected Government’s request for teachers to agree to a debunching payoff of $200 million for 2018/19. The President of the Union, Mark Lyte, said the Union similarly rejected the $700 million cap that was placed on salary increases which was for 2018 only. Government also wants the clothing allowance to remain at $8000, a figure which Lyte said was given in 2011.Minister’s removalAs upset teachers continued to chant slogans on the streets in various parts of the country, quite a few have supported the Union in its call for the Education Minister to be removed from her post.A male secondary school teacher said, “I saw the President shake up the Police Force, he needs to shake up the Ministries too because some of them are not doing their jobs. They have this condescending attitude towards their teachers”.He complained that while Ministers are out enjoying ‘benefits’, teachers and other public servants continue to squeeze their way through their expenses.Nicole Edwards, who teaches at Vryheild’s Lust Primary said, “Teachers certainly don’t want to be out here today. We certainly would like to be back in the classroom… she (Minister Henry) should take some introspect and look carefully at how she is doing the job of (a) Minister and ensure that she does it a little better”.A female primary school teacher explained that she feels as though the Ministry and Government at large are ignoring the pleas of the teachers. “The school term has started and I thought that things would have been resolved because for me I believe it was absolutely important for it to be resolved by last Monday. It’s now three days and we aren’t hearing anything from the Government, so I feel like we’re being ignored. Apparently we aren’t important enough,” she expounded.Parents supportRealising that managing children is not an easy task, several parents have since voiced their support for teachers to be adequately remunerated, since educators took to the streets in an effort to achieve increased salaries.Although some parents support their call, the two determined parties have left the country’s children in limbo, as many schools remain locked or empty.Maria Singh who turned out to Wednesday’s protest said, “I have two boys going to school and I agree with it that they (teachers) should have their money increased. I don’t agree that they stay away from school, they should wait until things improve or till they have an agreement with the Government because they are affecting the children. If the Ministry doesn’t work faste, then they will hold the children back from learning”.Police interventionWhile it may be necessary and even mandated for Police Officers to be present at picket exercises, this newspaper understands that Police Officers have allegedly been visiting schools in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), to check for teachers, who decided not to show up.On Monday evening, the Education Ministry met with the Divisional Commanders for a “debriefing session” according to the subject Minister.She explained to media operatives, “It wasn’t a meeting with Police Officers it was a debriefing session to get a sense from all of the stakeholders what occurred today (Monday) in the field and given that they would have provided some service to support the operation they were part of the meeting”.Guyana Times spoke with one of the Police Commanders, who indicated that ranks in that Division have been monitoring picketing exercises in his Division but opted not to say for the others.Several calls made by this newspaper to the Commander of G Division (Essequibo coast-Islands), went unanswered, although the ranks were reportedly visiting schools in his Division.Linden strike actionTeachers from across Linden and other parts of Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) took to the streets once again as day three of the countrywide strike action for increased salaries and other benefits continued on Wednesday.This time around, the teachers opted to sing hymns while marching through the streets of Linden, just before stopping in front of the Regional Department of Education on Republic Avenue, Linden for a prayer session. The teachers noted that they will not be moved and vowed to continue with strike action if the Ministry does not come up with a solution.A teacher, who had suffered a devastating fire at her home recently, while addressing the gathering in front of the Education Department noted that she was in solidarity with other teachers for more than one reason, as she accused the Education Ministry of lacking empathy.“I have given my entire life to teaching… I would have experienced a drastic and devastating fire whereby I would have lost everything… I was asking myself, what kind of people are we dealing with? To date, the Ministry of Education has not come forward and offered me any assistance, after I would have offered my life to this profession. Not one person would have come forward and assisted me in any way possible… Teachers, I stand with you in solidarity for more than one cause,” she noted.Essequibo CoastIn Region Two, over 600 teachers joined the protest action on Wednesday morning as they continued their quest for better wages. This newspaper has been told that children at one secondary school were being supervised by a farmer.Teachers started the protest at the Department of Education in Cotton Field, Essequibo Coast, braving the heavy rain while shouting slogans such as “No money, no work, five per cent can’t work”, “No money, no sports” and “We are backing GTU, no money, no education month activities, no money, no school”.According to GTU Regional Vice President, Carmel Williams, the protest will continue until Government decides to meet the union’s proposal.Meanwhile, a student of the Anna Regina Multilateral School said when the teachers joined the protest on Tuesday, the Department of Education in its bid to keep the children in school, brought a former teacher from his rice field to teach at the school with his farm clothing covered in mud and dirt.The child claimed that the students were afraid to be in the school’s three-storied building under his supervision, but the Department ordered the gate closed. For some it was similar to a hostage situation. Parents have since expressed fear in sending their children to school.BerbiceTeachers in Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) continued protesting on Wednesday, with two demonstrations even as several schools on the Corentyne were left without teachers.In New Amsterdam, more than 200 teachers representing both East and West Canje, New Amsterdam and the East Bank of Berbice braved the inclement weather and converged outside of the Department of Education building at Philadelphia Street.The teachers sang songs and chanted, demonstrating that they will not back off until the Government listens to them. Schools in East Canje recorded as low as 15 per cent student population. The teacher population at the secondary schools in New Amsterdam was just below 50 per cent.However, on the Corentyne, the situation was different with the Kildonan Primary having no teachers. When Guyana Times visited, there were also no teachers in school. A similar situation existed at Corriverton Primary.The student population at Skeldon Primary was about below 20, while at the Number 58 Primary, the school doors were closed.At Manchester Secondary, only a handful of teachers are supporting the strike. Many of the teachers have said that they have loans to pay and cannot afford to strike since their salaries will be cut.McGowan Primary was hard hit by the strike, with eight of the 18 teachers present.At Port Mourant Primary, two of the 16 teachers were on strike on Wednesday but only 60 of the 410 students were present, while at the JC Chandisingh Secondary, 16 of the 40 teachers were present and of the 600 students who attend the school, only 90 were present.Meanwhile, the teachers from the Lower and Centre Corentyne and some from the Upper Corentyne converged at the Rose Hall Primary tarmac before they marched around the town and Port Mourant.At that school there were four of the 18 teachers present and only 29 on the 491 students present.As the teachers marched holding placards and chanting, many onlookers threw their support behind the protesting teachers, making comments which suggest they were disgusted with the way the Government has been handling the situation.A few parents also marched with the teachers and they moved through the town.Meanwhile, the teachers on the Upper Corentyne are planning to take to the streets on Friday as the impasse between the Guyana Teachers’ Union and the Education Ministry continues.