Following a protracted protest by public-school teachers that was punctuated by both solidarity and threats from the public, educators returned to the classroom today, April 20, thereby ending their industrial action.
On Wednesday night, April 19, after intense negotiations, Minister of Education Daryl Matthew confirmed that third-term classes, finally, would begin.
The full details of the negotiations between the Teachers Union and the Government are unclear, at this time; but Minister Matthew had urged the teachers to return to the classroom, saying that most of their concerns had been addressed.
On Wednesday night, several teachers told REAL News they are satisfied that their remaining issues can be hammered out by the Union’s executive and, accordingly, they are willing to resume their classroom duties.
Teachers had planned to stage a sit-in on April 11, at the start of the final academic term. This period is considered critical, as it includes annual examinations, including the Grade Six National Assessment and the regional CSEC exams.
However – in spite of criticism from some parents and government officials – the teachers refused to budge until most of their critical issues were addressed. These included security and proper lighting at the schools; ex-gratia payments and upgrades for the educators; and concluding negotiations on their collective bargaining agreement.
In the meantime, educators were turning up to their respective schools, as directed by the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (A&BUT), to sign in and meet in a common area to stage their sit-in.
With normalcy restored, the Cabinet is congratulating the parties for showing great concern for the students and for acting to end the impasse.
His colleagues heaped praise on Minister Matthew and the officials from the Ministry of Education and the Treasury for acting quickly to avert further harm to the education system.