Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves is urging vaccinated teachers to go to school and teach the nation’s children as he responded to the news of strike action.
The SVG Teachers Union has issued a call for all teachers to stay away from school on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as to join a picket line on Friday. The strike is over the issue of mandatory vaccination.
Speaking on WEFM99.9 on Sunday, Gonsalves said all schools will be open and ‘this thing about asking parents not to send their children to school is a non-starter.’
He said to teachers: “You cannot use children as a battering ram against the government, it is wrong.”
The prime minister said the country cannot have a set of people who want to act outside the framework, decide they are going to seek to disrupt the education of the children.
He said that is not going to happen and added it is unacceptable for any teacher who is vaccinated to say they are going to ‘sit out’ or ‘sit in’.
Gonsalves questioned the public morality of being paid, deciding not to go to work and then using the children they are obligated to teach, as a battering ram against the government.
“Where is the public morality in you not doing your job? You will be paid for five days employment but have determined in advance, three of the days you will not be teaching people children?
To have the government change its position you want to use the children as a battering ram against the government?”
The prime minister has urged those teachers who have taken the vaccine and who have an obligation to teach people’s children, to do so.
Eighty-five per cent of teachers in primary and secondary schools are vaccinated. Some are awaiting letters as to whether they have received an exemption from the vaccine on medical or religious grounds.
The prime minister noted that as a consequence of the slower movement in the vaccination rate among teachers and given the importance of educating children and keeping them safe in school, the government had to make sure there was an adequate supply of teachers for those who were unvaccinated as of November 19.
An advertisement was posted for persons who wanted to teach and following interviews, up to Saturday morning, 91 teachers have been hired, largely in the primary and some also in secondary schools.
Gonsalves said the interview process continues with retired teachers also being contacted.