Gonsalves bringing in substitutes for protesting teachers

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As teachers at a secondary school here protested government’s vaccine mandate for the second day in less than a week, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced that his government will hire teachers, including retired educators, on short term contracts, to fill their place.

He served notice during his weekly appearance on the state-owned NBC Radio, on Wednesday, as teachers at West St George Secondary School (WSGSS), responded to the call of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) and sat in their staff room, refusing to go to classes.

The WSGSS teachers are standing in solitary with their colleagues who have opted to not get vaccinated against COVID-19. Last Friday, the teachers at the school, where about 11 of the 31 educators are unvaccinated, wore black and sat in their classroom in protest.

Unvaccinated teachers and other public sector workers for whom the jab is required but who have not obtained a medical or religious exemption, have until Friday to take the jab or be deemed to have abandoned their posts.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said that he had heard about the stance of teachers at WSGSS and the Ministry of Education was keeping him informed.

“I am asking my brothers and sisters who are teaching in West St. George, please don’t punish the students. Don’t punish the students by going to school and not teaching the students,” he said on NBC Radio.

“You are hurting people who don’t deserve to be hurt and you are doing so on a basis which is not rational. Please.”

He said that his government has an obligation for the safety of the students and that obligation “is high on the totem pole”.

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