BELMOPAN, Wed. Apr. 28, 2021– On the third day of protest by the Belize National Teachers Union, teachers made their way once again to the steps of Independence Hill — this time to protest the Senate Meeting, at which the senators were debating the passing of the 2021-2022 budget, which includes a 10% cut of their (teachers’) salaries.
At one point in the day, Senator Elena Smith, national president of the BNTU, exited the upper chambers and strode down the front steps of the National Assembly building to address the wave of teachers protesting outside. She sported a now-famous “teachers green” dress to show solidarity with the union members, who wore their green “teechaz got yo back” shirts.
“It seems as if though we should not be out here today, but we know better, and we know that we have always been the group that stands up for this country, even though it means sacrificing our own families. We stand for country every time, all the time. And that is why it is difficult for many people to [fight] us because they know that we have always been true to country. So while we do not want a salary cut, while we cannot afford a salary cut, this is about more than, it’s about more than the 10. It’s about the 10 plus. Because we know that without good governance we will be back here again two years from now, three years from now, ten years from now,” Smith told the cheering crowd of teachers.
She remarked that this stand needs to happen now to ensure that future generations do not have to take on this same fight — a fight to right the corruption of state and maladministration by elected government officials.
“We have to fight! We have to fight for those little ones in our classrooms so that they don’t need to be in the sun burning up to ensure that our country goes down the right path, so what you are doing is what all of us as Belizeans should be doing.” Smith told the teachers.
She thanked the teachers and the police officers on the ground.
“I thank you, teachers, for being strong, for being brave, for standing up for all of us, and we want to thank our officers for being out here,” Smith said as the teachers began their solidarity chant. “Teechaz! Got yo back Teechaz! Got yo back!” the crowd shouted.
“Because our fight is not with the police, our fight is for the police, because we know that if they could have stood up beside us they would have been here. So we will stand for them! And we will stand for all of those who can’t stand at this time,” Smith said as she returned to the ongoing Senate Meeting.