I have taken note of Stabroek News’ unhealthy discourse in its Sunday, October 29th, 2017 Editorial `The President and the teachers’ and its Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 Editorial `Testing government’s take-it-or-leave-it-pay negotiating strategy’.
On both occasions the Ministry of Education and particularly the Minister of Education, Hon. Nicolette Henry, MP has been made to appear incompetent and uncaring based on the recent events regarding the Guyana Teachers’ Union’s Multi-Year Agreement.
What these publications have shown is that Stabroek News seems to have its own agenda relating to issues concerning Minister Henry. The two rather peculiar editorials will be addressed in this letter.
First, let me deal with the October 31st editorial. It said that it was the Minister’s “decidedly indelicate assertion at her meeting with the union that resulted in the walkout and triggered the strike call”. Based on my investigation, I was made aware that there were no media outfits present while the meeting was held.
However, the newspaper paints a picture as if it were present at the meeting. I also learnt that at that meeting, the Minister attempted to recap what transpired at a previous meeting with the GTU. I believe this was done to pave the way for fruitful discussions. So, what is
indelicate about that?
Such conclusive language without basis misleads the nation and creates an image of an uncaring and crude Minister of Education; an untruth created by the Tuesday Editorial.
Criticism is necessary in any democratic state and Guyana is no exception. This government has worked towards ensuring and maintaining an atmosphere where dissenting voices can express their views without fear. This includes the press corps. However, it must be appreciated that criticism should be premised on facts, the simple elementary “what was” and “what is”.
Further, the editorial opined that the Minister of Education lacks the experience to deal with such industrial issues. Minister Henry is more than experienced in handling such issues. This assertion begs the question, how is the Stabroek News qualified to pronounce on who is experienced enough to address such industrial matters.
The newspaper gives the impression that it has all the intellectual fortitudes to pronounce on issues.
Further, the Sunday Editorial tried to identify an ‘inconsistency’ with the government’s position on teachers’ wage increases for the year 2017 and the information Minister Henry conveyed to the GTU. Based on reports, Minister Henry indicated during the meeting on Thursday, October 26th, 2017 that at this time the Government of Guyana is only prepared to offer wage increases in keeping with that proposed for public servants.
Additionally, the Editorial noted that a joint statement was released following the meeting with Minister of State Joseph Harmon and the Union on Friday last. In that statement it was said that “The Honourable Minister of State further indicated that the meeting with the Minister of Education held on October 26, 2017 was never intended to be the final position of the Administration but rather an interim arrangement.”
Stabroek News interpreted the position conveyed by the Minister of Education to the GTU as the final offer for teachers and that the Multi-Year Agreement would not be considered. Again, a conclusion that is furthest from the truth.
The editorial asserted that “either the relevant ministries failed to fully brief Minister Henry about government’s stance on teachers, or she did not take the time to apprise herself in the detail as to what the stance was”. This too is an inaccuracy. In fact, the Minister has a clear understanding of the intricacies of the matter.
Moreover, in the same editorial, it was said that the meeting between the Minister and GTU representatives held last Thursday lasted “all of five minutes.” This timespan was repeated in the editorial, written in a format to suggest that the Minister and Ministry officials were not compassionate to the issue which the GTU representatives wished to discuss.
As was mentioned in a statement from the Ministry, the meeting was truncated by the President of the GTU after the Minister would have spoken on the financial aspect of the Multi-Year agreement. Truncate means to shorten. The meeting did come to a premature end.
So, it would be wise for Stabroek News to desist from labouring on a supposed timespan to insinuate that the Ministry of Education has no interest in the welfare and wellbeing of its teachers who are the backbone of the education system.
It is imperative that all sides to a story are explored, something the newspaper knows all too well about. But in this case, it is clear that Stabroek News wanted to serve its own interest; ‘having a go’ at the Minister of Education.
I can say with a great degree of certainty that the Ministry of Education respects the work of Workers’ Unions and Mr. Lyte did what he believed was best to advocate the interest of the thousands of teachers that he represents.
Further, the Sunday’s editorial of Stabroek News described the Ministry’s Statement which followed the meeting as “unsuitable”. According to the editorial, the Ministry blamed Mr. Lyte “for the dispatch with which the meeting was conducted.” Again, the editorial deliberately interpreted the Ministry’s statement to paint a negative picture of the Ministry of Education. This was quite repugnant.
I will appreciate if Stabroek News can produce factual and meaningful reports on the education sector and its development.
Editor’s note: Stabroek News stands
by both editorials.