Letters — 19 October 2016
Teachers’ social activism and education

Dear Editor,

So the Peaceful Constructive Belizean Revolution continues. This maturing-adult nation is finding out that democratic governments can be as corrupt as corrupt can be. If change cannot come from the top, then it has to come from the nation’s citizens.

Not surprisingly, the majority of the teachers have re-awakened from their social justice hibernation after eleven years. After all, there is no other non-political organization that can lead the charge against government corruption but the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU).

The schism first came to the nation’s attention when the government did not honor a 3% salary adjustment in July 2016. This meant that the teachers walked out of the banks empty- handed, which made teachers ask each other if it was a mistake.

The BNTU blew the conch shell; the teachers came out in numbers for answers. After learning that it was government’s intentional mistake, the teacher unionists prepared their slings and stones, enough to last the war, not just a battle.

The teachers are resolute that the 3% salary adjustment be paid or comprised with compensation. They had suggested to the Prime Minister that if government cannot pay, that it can do so either in December, but tax-free, or until next year, but with interest. The suggestions were met with a cold no. The Prime Minister wins the first battle.

But there is more to industrial action than teacher welfare. Why are the teachers’ stones polished with the demand for good governance as well? Isn’t that responsibility fitting for the opposition party?

Well, change does not come automatically from political parties. It comes from ordinary citizens when they unite in their demand for that change. In Belize, then, Rt. Honorable George Cadle Price’s Peaceful Constructive Belizean Revolution belongs to the ordinary Belizean.

It is precisely because the teachers see a sociological dilemma that is choking Belize that they make this call for good governance.

This dilemma is the continued enrichment of countable families using political and economic power and influence, while the impoverished majority of Belizeans sweat to make ends meet.

And because they work with Belize’s children, the teachers are the perhaps the most informed on issues affecting the Belizean household. Students struggle to finance their education. Students live in an era when scholarships and political handouts are the only convenient avenues for education. Parents are forced to cling to politicians to help with school fees, uniforms, books, pocket money, school supplies, and transportation. As such, the ordinary Belizean is forced to look up to the politicians for help because the politicians have designed it that way. Why is a politician’s signature, authorization, or influential words necessary for any educational assistance besides the high school fee subsidy?

The majority of Belizean parents face a tough task of maintaining the family. This import-saturated nation, that the ‘privileged’ claim is a wonderful country, is also saturated with inflation. A pound of rice is no less than a dollar in Toledo.

Yet one might say that fertile land abounds in Belize; why do farmers not plant their own rice to feed their children? That is right; many families plant rice but end up selling all except for a bag for the next crop. Why? The farmers need to build a home, purchase clothes for their children, finance their child’s education for hope of a better tomorrow, and drink coffee at least once a day. So they have to sell the rice, which is very cheap by the way, to get a meagre amount of cash to maintain the family.

Yet, within our midst, the privileged are living in their own socio-economic stratosphere.

A case in point: education for the privileged and their children is guaranteed. The stratospheric citizen’s children can study law, politics, international relations, economics, medicine, and other humanities-oriented courses. On the other hand, it is better to train the ordinary children with hospitality and vocational-based skills. Why not — the cycle of domination, influence, and of course corruption needs to continue for the privileged.

So the teachers’ fight for a 13th senator is just. The fight for the signing of the United Nations Convention against Corruption is overdue. The Integrity Commission and Public Accounts Committee shall be resurrected from their slumbers.

It is in this light that the teachers remain steadfast in their quest for good governance. They are fully aware that if those with power can become honest honorable human beings, that the lives of the ordinary Belizean can become more dignified, if not better.

The parents of Belize understand the nature of the teachers’ sling shot war, for they too have their slings and stones. Thus, the teachers are not alone. All Belizeans who are living on the Belizean soil are united to stamp out government corruption.

Only those living in the privileged Belizean stratosphere intentionally fail to see it. Let not the BNTU’s Peaceful, Constructive Belizean Revolution end in vain.

Isidro Cus

San Miguel, Toledo District

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