Antigua teachers return to classrooms

Ottos School

Teachers in Antigua were returning to their classrooms on Wednesday after the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT) accepted a government proposal regarding school security.

Last Friday, the ABUT president, Castro Charles, in a letter to the government warned that teachers would embark upon industrial action from Tuesday if the Gaston Browne administration failed to provide 24-hour security at all schools on the island no later than Monday.

The ABUT said that teachers have been more than accommodating in giving the government ample opportunities to deal with the “reign of terror that is being imposed on us by vandals.

“We will be taking affirmative action if the appropriate interventions are not instituted immediately. According to our records, the period of September 5, 2022, to September 28, 2022, is marred with seven incidents of burglary and vandalism at both primary and secondary institutions,” the letter said

But the Director of Education, Clare Browne, told the state-owned ABS Television, said he had been in discussions with the ABTU president on Tuesday night and that the proposals made to the union to beef up security include improved lighting on school premises, intensified patrols by the security forces in all public-school zones and night-time police-military presence at some schools deemed to be at highest risk for break-ins and vandalism had been accepted.

He said additional lights will be installed in the first instance at 11 schools deemed as a priority, as soon as a shipment arrives in the island.

However, while the teachers’ union has accepted the Ministry’s proposals, its members reportedly have lingering concerns regarding the timeline for the execution of the fixes to improve security.

Classes at public schools had been suspended on Tuesday as teachers met with the union to discuss the situation.

Prime Minister Browne had urged the teachers not to take industrial action on Tuesday.

“The letter was delivered after the close of business on Friday. The next business say is the 3th and they are saying they will take industrial action on the 4th…They have been critical of the government but at no point have they released a statement condemning the dastardly acts at which our schools have been vandalized, burnt, or burglarized, Prime Minister Browne said.He said he believes that based on the frequency of these break-ins are orchestrated and politically motivated.

Officials said that while classes are to resume on Wednesday, classes will however be truncated to allow for teachers to participate in a rally in celebration of World Teachers Day.

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