SVGTU President asserts that teachers are not on vacation amid COVID-19 school closure

Newly elected President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU), Mr. Oswald Robinson, has sought to shed some light on challenges that teachers are facing concerning e-teaching in the current COVID-19 climate, as schools remain closed. He equally noted that this is a not a vacation for teachers.

According to Robinson, he recently made a statement raising some of the challenges, however, “some people unfortunately took out of context and misrepresented what I have said.”

Speaking latterly on XtremeFM, Robinson elucidated that though, the majority of the Vincentian teaching population has engaged in e-teaching, an appreciation must be made for the challenges.

Explaining the challenges, Robinson suggested that some teachers may have a cellular phone, but not have the app required to facilitate online classes. He also mentioned teachers that have domestic responsibilities as a challenge. The SVGTU head also made mention of the teaching population in St. Vincent and the Grenadines having a higher concentration of younger members and so, some teachers may be more technologically advanced than others.

“Nothing is wrong with saying what these challenges are,” he said.

Robinson informed that these challenges were discussed with the Ministry of Education during a meeting and were shared by both the present and passed administrations of the SVGTU, noting the unison between the two.

According to the president, a recommendation of social dialogue was made as a possible solution for these challenges, especially for those teachers who have not yet engaged in the e-learning/e-teaching process.

Some teachers are reluctant to conduct classes via online platforms for reasons unknown. Thus, Robinson is appealing to these teachers to reach out to the union, education officials or their school principal for guidance.

“We have to identify these teachers and find a way and bring them on board.”

“…We need to know what are their issues, if there are any. So that we can put in place support mechanisms, so that they can come on board. Because at the end of the day, it’s the nations’ children.”

“…We are saying that we want all teachers on board, but we have to take into consideration, what are some of these issues that they may have, why they are not there.”

The educator declared that the union does not approve of the negligence from teachers.

“Teachers are not on vacation,” Robinson asserted, adding that “teachers need to realize that this is part of their responsibility.”

“We are not condoning any form of neglect from teachers who are not on board. We as a union, we are professional in the way we approach our business. As a union and as a professional organization, we are very much concerned about the educational advancement of our students.”

Robinson listed counseling as another recommendation to mitigate challenges faced by teachers.

“We recommended counseling, and if there are teachers who do not have the tools, that some support be put in place so that they have tools to do their work.”

Robinson said the same for parents, indicating that support be provided for parents as well, as this may be new for many.

Answering the question “what happens to those teachers who are also parents?”, Robinson said, “well that is the point that I was making, and that is what people took out of context.”

“I said, the nature of e-learning/e-teaching is not the same as you physically in your regular classroom. You are using your home. There are teachers who may be using video to do the teaching, some may be just sending out the information, post it on a website, some people are doing WhatsApp… we have to pay attention also to the ergonomics which are involved in transforming your home to effectively do that. Teachers are teaching online, but they still have to supervise their children, that’s the reality.”

“…It’s a good start and we must commend the teachers and the Ministry of Education who are involved in sending out information through various means, but the point of the matter is, it’s a challenge,” Robinson deduced.

Responding to another question, asking what the union’s role is in this entire process and if there would be a hand in hand approach between the union, the ministry and the affected teachers, Robinson said…

“We want to work collaboratively, that’s our point. The Ministry of Education is the hub of the education sector, and therefore we must work with them as an important stakeholder in the business of education.”

“We must engage these teachers… somehow, and then properly sort what are the concerns and try to put support mechanisms in place. If it is counseling, whether they have their own domestic baggage going around that is affecting them, whether they do not have the tools, whether it’s internet, whether they have a phone but it doesn’t have the app.”

“We are ready now to assist in any way,” Robinson concluded.