Gov’t has created better working conditions, salaries for teachers since 2020 – VP Jagdeo

As the illegal strike action prompted by the Guyana Teachers Union continues, Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has once again called out the opposition for opportunistically supporting this effort, and using their racist rhetoric to mislead teachers.

Speaking to reporters at his press conference at the Office of the President on Thursday, Dr Jagdeo highlighted the significant investments that the government has placed in ensuring better working conditions for teachers and students, and to elevate the education sector.

Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

The $1.146 trillion 2024 budget has allocated $135 billion to the education sector, which comprises approximately 10 per cent of the overall budget.

Schools across the country are being rehabilitated, while new ones are being constructed, to expand education access, and improve facilities for more comfortable working and learning environments.

The vice president compared this year’s budgetary allocation to the previous APNU+AFC government’s 2019 budget, which set aside $52.7 billion for the education sector.

“If you divide that by 170,000 kids in school, you would come up with $310,000, or $25,800 per month. That is $310,00 per year, that you would spend on a child. Our budget now is $135 billion. So, we took out $8 billion, $4 billion for UG, and $4 billion for GOAL, so we have about $125 billion and we have approximately 180,000 students. So, this comes up to 694,000 that we spend per child per year. It’s more than double what they were spending per child in 2019,” he explained.

This reflects the government’s to educating and creating better learning environments for children.

Turning his attention to the pupil-teacher ratio, the vice president pointed out that in 2012, the pupil-teacher ratio stood at 23.2 students per teacher. Today, this ratio stands at 12.69 students per teacher, with over 14,000 teachers on the payroll.

“This is better than the United States, and 156 other countries, including the average for many European countries. This shows a commitment to hiring people in the sector,” he noted.

More than 2,000 new teachers have been added to the country’s complement since the PPP/C government assumed office.

For added benefits, teachers have unimpeded access to multiple upskilling platforms, as the government is moving to incentivise education. The Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) provides the opportunity to pursue higher education free of cost at accredited international institutions, and according to the Ministry of Education, more than 3,000 teachers are actively enrolled in programmes at various levels through this initiative.

Additionally, the Cyril Potter College of Education has seen notable investments to improve the operations and facilitate training for more teachers.  Over 3,000 teachers have graduated from CPCE over the last three years.

The University of Guyana also features programmes through which teachers can upskill themselves.

The vice president said that since the government assumed office, salaries for graduate teachers have increased by some 33 per cent, while, since 2015, teachers have received over 50 per cent in salary increases.

The goal is to ensure that all teachers are trained so that the quality of education meted out to students is elevated to a world-class level.

“There are massive amounts of money in the budget for the training of teachers. As you train and as you go up, the salary gets better, and that is why we have focused on that. That is why we are encouraging higher increases at the top,” he said.

While starting salaries for teachers are competitive with other industries, such as the banking sector, the vice president said that the government is encouraging teachers to upskill themselves for larger increases.

‘GTU is no longer a credible body’

Meanwhile, Dr Jagdeo pointed to the Guyana Teachers Union’s (GTU) dismal state of affairs with their financial accounts. For some 30 years, the GTU has shirked its obligation to have its accounts audited, in violation of its constitution.

“The teachers union has collected billions of dollars in dues within the last 30 years. The last audited statement that they submitted to the auditor general was in 1989. Since 1989, they have not had any of their accounts audited. The constitution of the teacher’s union says that at the annual meeting, they have to get their accounts submitted to the auditor general. So, we don’t know how they spent their money in those 30 years,” he pointed out.

In addition to this, the Union has failed to submit its financial statements to the Registrar.

“The last time they submitted financial statements was 2004,” the VP said.

Based on this failure, he explained that the GTU could be struck from the trade union register.

“Twenty years, they have failed to submit financial statements. Anywhere in the world, they would have already been struck off,” Dr Jagdeo stated.

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