Teachers’ union calls for withdrawal of ‘lunch break’ directive

The Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) is calling for Chief Education Officer (CEO) Marcel Hutson to withdraw or amend a memo directing that teachers supervise students at all times, including during their lunch periods.

According to the GTU President Mark Lyte, the requirement is in direct contravention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

In the memo, dated September 29, Hutson directed that students must be supervised at all times while at school, including during play and at lunch.

Head teachers were instructed to develop a schedule identifying those teachers who will facilitate this process on a daily or weekly basis. Additionally, he said a rule of one teacher to 20 students must be observed if students are to be taken to any event outside of school.

For the GTU, this is too much to ask of teachers. In a response to Hutson, Lyte noted that the memo seeks to introduce new terms and conditions of service and will have serious implications for the conduct of classes and the attendance at activities if the rule of one teacher to 20 students is to be applied.

He stressed that while the union empathises with the concern for the safety of children as expressed in the memo, a break and, specifically a lunch break, is necessary for teachers to recuperate from the mental and physical stress endured during the day.

“This recent memo seeks to take away that right of the teacher and we, therefore, call for it to be amended,” Lyte said on Thursday.

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