BUT: Government ended remote learning
A decision to end remote learning for public school pupils was made by the Government, not teachers, their union said yesterday.
A spokesman for the Bermuda Union of Teachers said that “no individual teacher or school made the decision to suspend remote learning going forward”.
He explained: “That was very much a Department of Education decision and the rationale behind it has not been shared with the union or its members.”
The spokesman added that no interruption to pupil learning was planned as Bermuda battled Covid-19.
He said: “Teachers will continue to plan, arrange and assign work during this time, and there will be no work stoppage while this pandemic continues to threaten our collective way of life.”
The BUT spokesman said that the union had always campaigned for the “fair and reasonable treatment” of its members.
He said: “We will continue to stand in solidarity with workers who give more than they have any reasonable duty to in the face of tyranny and abuse.”
He was speaking after details of plans to dock wages from teachers who took part in industrial action in February were revealed last week.
Nishanthi Bailey, the president of the BUT, told members that the union had withdrawn its “support of and collaboration” with the Ministry and Department of Education until there was a U-turn on the cuts to salaries.
The BUT directed members in a letter last Friday to only work with government-issued resources.
The spokesman said the letter to Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, was “not meant to be a call to action”.
He explained: “It was, rather, meant to be another reminder that all educators working in the Bermuda Public School System work assiduously to ensure that the students in their charge get the very best education possible, and that the work only stops when it is deemed absolutely necessary.”
The spokesman said that staff meetings held in February for which teachers were to be docked pay had been held on school grounds “and represented reasonable ends to unreasonable struggles — struggles that the ministry would be happy to let linger until they fester into something much bigger than any of us want to deal with”.
He added: “Our members are not unreasonable people who stop teaching so they can relax around the pool.
“Ensuring that our students have the proper resources for learning to occur is a part of our job, and when we have to down tools to that end, then it is not something we should be punished for, especially when we are not rewarded, or even acknowledged, for going above and beyond at all.”
The spokesman asked: “Perhaps the ministry officials responsible for the scarcity of resources in our schools should be docked pay for neglect of duty? Imagine the outcry that would raise.”
He said that union members had made several demands in February which led to “at least one major issue” being fixed on the spot.
The spokesman told the Government: “To now go and say that workers will be docked for demanding reasonable resources in the only way you left for them to is simply underhanded, devious and invidious.” He said that teachers “stand in solidarity” with parents when they demanded resources to properly instruct pupils.
The spokesman added: “There is no reason for us to stand against parents and to have our efforts in solidarity be punished by docking pay is a slap in the face in the best of times, and downright traumatising in uncertain days like these.”
The spokesman said that expectations of teachers from the ministry were often “unreasonable and negligent”.
Mr Rabain said yesterday that “most” teachers continued to work remotely, had taken part in planning meetings this week, and had provided remote-learning activities to pupils.
He added: “I am encouraged by what looks to be a change of heart from the BUT as it relates to teachers working remotely.”
Mr Rabain said that the Department of Education had told principals and teachers last Thursday about plans to require them to work remotely this week and next week, as well as plans to suspend remote-learning starting on Monday.
He added that school staff were working on plans for when public schools were reopened, and for activities for pupils to complete from home.
Mr Rabain said: “I can report that school leaders are submitting those plans today, and the activities for students will be distributed to parents and guardians by tomorrow.”
He added that principals and teachers would, from Monday, start to “focus on determining what remote learning will look like moving forward”.
Mr Rabain said that individual plans would be developed for pupils “as it relates to the reopening of school”.
He said that, although remote learning was suspended, “students are to complete the activities assigned to them by their teachers”.