Public schools are expected to be in full operation today following discussions between government officials and leaders at the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (A&BUT) yesterday.
The teachers, who have been frustrated by the lack of progress on several longstanding issues, staged a “sit-in” on Monday until the commencement of the meeting between the Ministry of Education and the A&BUT, according to directives sent to them on Sunday.
Labour Minister Steadroy Benjamin, Education Minister Daryll Matthew, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Rosa Greenaway, Deputy Director of Education Ezra Jonah Greene and leaders of the A&BUT attended the meeting which was described as “cordial” and reportedly ended with an agreement on several commitments.
Observer media spoke to the General Secretary of A&BUT, Sharon Kelsick, who said that while details of the outcomes agreed to by both parties could not be divulged, the meeting did allow both sides to come to a consensus on the major issues.
“When we met with them, we discussed the issues that were highlighted in our initial letter … they made their proposals which is what we were looking for. We are going to present those proposals to our membership to see if those proposals are acceptable and, based on what our membership says, we will come back to the table,” Kelsick said.
Kelsick said that the meetings will continue to be held over the next 21 days as union officials meet with the members today.
The educators have been calling on the Ministry of Education to address school security, teacher upgrades and negotiations on the 2018-2020 collective bargaining agreement, which are among the issues outlined in their letter to education officials.
The Minister of Education, while speaking to Observer, thanked the union representatives for what he described as a cordial and respectful meeting.
“What I will say is that the union is very complimentary of the efforts that the Ministry of Education continues to make, we know that there are things outstanding from other agencies of government but there was an agreement that everything that the Ministry should and could have done was done to the best of our ability,” he explained.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Clare Hall Secondary School was breached by armed assailants, who – even though they failed to accomplish their apparent intentions – drove fear into parents, students and teachers, who protested the breach afterward.
A few days later, the school also saw an act of vandalism where some of the buildings were broken into.
The Ministry of Education responded by increasing the number of police officers patrolling that school to two, and has pledged to take even greater action to address the security issues on a national level.