This week marks eight years since I’ve been in the teaching profession. Eight is a very small number. I have so many more rungs of the ladder to climb, but at this point I am satisfied with the level I am at. I have learnt so much about this fascinating profession. I am surprised I lasted eight years. But great things continue to happen every now and then that sort of boosts your morale as a teacher. Berbicians should be proud of another of their own being elected to the highest office in teacher trade unionism in Guyana. Mr Bynoe joins a stock of men including Sydney Murdoch and Ansel Hazel, just to name a few Berbician stalwarts in the field of education who have led the teachers’ union in past years. I am proud. I really am.
The news should have been broken by the newspapers since Sunday evening, if I had my way. Sadly, I do not. I depend on a newspaper or two for their cooperation. And I received that cooperation from Kaieteur News. I could not have waited any longer. The people of Guyana – the teachers of Guyana deserved to know a new president was elected. Radio and other major newscasts on Wednesday daytime and evening started announcing that Mr Bynoe was President of the GTU, extracting details from my article. My exclusive report on the matter might have still been in the mail inbox of one of the other newspapers up to now, awaiting publication (in fact, it still is). I am saddened, really, at our newspapers the way they treat persons labouring (sometimes for free) to bring information to the public’s eye. I will do a write-up about citizen journalism, something which our media houses, especially newspapers, sorely lack in this country.
But let’s get back to President Colin Bynoe. I got to know this individual on a personal level a few months ago during the pre-election period. We sat, chatted and discussed areas of his concerns in the teacher profession. I also discussed with at least one other candidate who ran for the presidency. Both men meant well. As for the past president, Ms Allen, I never spoke to her nor do I know her. She came to the school where I taught – or so I heard – during the election season (to “give me the facts”), but sadly I had already left since it was after dismissal. But nevertheless I would’ve been honoured to hear her plans for the union. Sitting presidents of any organization have a better chance of winning because they have everything at their disposal to make a change, but did she make a change?
Honestly speaking, Ms Allen had her chance. She had her chance to make a change for teachers in Guyana. She passed up on a good opportunity to prove to teachers that she was actually worth her salt in a position she held on to for a few years but hardly did anything or was hardly ever heard! Yes, I saw her speaking at the biennial congress Wednesday evening on Channel 28 news, but it’s too little, too late. She had very nice concerns for teachers: violence in schools, remuneration, and all of the sorts of things, but she had her chance. Her presidency has come to an end, and now it’s time to hand over the baton to someone who wants to make the union something that it never was under her authority.
Usually, before now, I could not have cared less about the Guyana Teachers’ Union and its business. I was really not interested. I explained this to Mr Milne Seymour when he telephoned my school last November or December to discuss my opinions about the union in Berbice. I told him tactfully that I scorned the union due to its scandals. I was not interested a bit in the activities or affairs of this organization. But the possibility of a change – a fresh start (like what we have now) – changed a lot in my thinking. It’s a time for a new beginning of teachers’ unionism in Guyana. It’s time for teachers everywhere to play an active role in the union. Dignity, professionalism, good conduct, and camaraderie have now been restored among all levels of educators in the teaching profession.
Now we can deal with and address issues like corporal punishment, violence in schools, communication links among teachers across the country and, of course, salaries and benefits.
The Guyana Teachers’ Union has come a far way – some 100 years and more – let us build this nation together and build the tomorrows, for today I am here and tomorrow it will be the young ones I have to teach in one of my classes. That is how quickly the roles interchange.
This race had no winners and losers. Everyone must work together to lift the GTU back to a place where it can gain the respect of this nation. Mr Bynoe has a tough task ahead of him. A Berbician, though, can get anything done!
Leon Jameson Suseran