The government, through its Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, has reiterated its commitment to prioritising the well-being of teachers amidst ongoing conciliation talks with the Guyana Teacher Union (GTU) regarding salary negotiations.

She reminded that the PPP/C government has a proven track record of delivering on its promises, and has committed to gradually enhancing the living and working conditions of the nation’s educators.

During a press conference on Tuesday, the education minister said that these promises have already begun to take

shape, as  teachers across the country have been benefitting from deliberate measures to improve their lives. These include salary adjustments effective from 2020, increases in the Remote Ares Incentive (RAI) for hinterland teachers, termly grants to purchase teaching materials, and the appointment of floating teachers to schools to reduce the workload.

She added that the ministry has consistently met with teachers since August 2020, and the government has fulfilled 33 of the 41 requests put forward by the GTU.

“A union asks for 41 things, and a government gives 33 of the 41. I don’t think anywhere in the world anyone would say that is unreasonable,” she said. The minister further pointed out, “The items given add up to better salaries, whether it be allowances or the ability to keep money in your money after we give you other resources.”

Additional measures include all trained teachers being eligible to be a Senior Assistant Master/Mistress after six years rather than seven, and the creation of more senior vacancies in nursery, primary and secondary schools.

Additionally, Minister Manickchand underlined the government’s commitment to ensure that all teachers are trained or are in training by the year 2025. She highlighted that strides have been made to facilitate easier access for teachers to enhance their skills.

She said that before 2021, teachers were required to physically attend the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) to receive training. This policy, she said, put hinterland teachers at a disadvantage, as there was no training college for them to attend. “In 2019, 32 teachers from the hinterland graduated CPCE. In 2023, 188 teachers from the hinterland graduated [from] CPCE. That is a 488 per cent increase. What that means is that the classrooms they will stand in front of will have a higher quality of education,” the minister stated.

Some teachers across the country have resumed strike action in an attempt to sway the government to begin salary negotiations from the year 2019. However, the government is firm in its position that negotiations must begin from 2024 onwards.

Minister Manickchand emphasised the potential learning loss resulting from the absence of teachers in the classroom. She said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government employed a series of programmes to combat learning loss, and this approach will also be applied in the aftermath of this ordeal.

“I am calling on everyone to let sense prevail. Let humanity prevail. We are talking about children’s education. Every day lost is a day that we cannot get back,” she pointed out. Minister Manickchand continued, “While we will do whatever we have to do at the ministry to try to recover any loss of learning that is happening as a result of this period, I am advising that it is better to prevent than to fix afterwards.”