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BUT marks 100 years fighting for education

Important milestone: BUT celebrates its centennial with a gathering, including former presidents, at the National Gallery (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The 100th anniversary of the island’s first trade union is a “vital” milestone, the organiser of an event to honour its founders said yesterday.

Glenn Fubler said that the anniversary was important “not just to the BUT, but to the whole community”.

He added: “There’s nothing more important than education today.”

Mr Fubler was speaking as the union organised to celebrate its centennial.

Several former presidents and the present head of the BUT gathered at an event at the Bermuda National Gallery. Mr Fubler, who served as president of the BUT from 1983 to 1985, said that creation of the union was “fundamental to the transformation that happened in Bermuda” in the decades after.

Edith Crawford, Matilda Crawford, Adele Tucker and Rufus Stovell founded the BUT on February 1, 1919.

Mr Fubler said: “These founders brave and unselfish action a century ago was key to strengthening the teaching profession and providing the framework for a sustainable public system to meet the needs of the 20th century.

“Their persistent and principled actions contributed immeasurably to a Bermuda in which there was an increased access to opportunity for all segments of the community — the black community in particular.”

He added that it was important to honour the union’s founders by “committing to work together across our diverse interests to nurture the capacity of our whole society”.

He added: “The best way of observing this iconic anniversary would be to commit towards fostering an open and collaborative society, which recognises, respects and promotes the potential of all.”

Mr Fubler read a list of names who had thanked the founders of the BUT.

It included church and union leaders, social services providers, island teachers and others.

Shannon James, president of the BUT, was happy to hear of the support.

He said: “It lets me know that the community is really involved in education and supports teachers, and in turn supports our children.

“It’s a wonderful thing. It is a true community effort.”

Mr James said that to be at the event with past presidents and other community members was “a humbling experience”.

He added: “A lot of times when you’re in the class, you feel like it’s just you.

“To see the faces of the many people that support — it’s encouraging.

“It lets you know that you’re not alone. We all are in it together, and we all are interested in our children.”

Ellen-Kate Horton, BUT president from 1979 to 1981, said that the union “must have a say in education going forward”.

She added: “It cannot be just a government decision.”

Ms Horton would like to seem more gatherings of the profession.

She said: “I’m hoping we can keep it going — because we are the people who must make a difference in education. We can’t leave it to persons who have no idea about education.”

Ms Horton felt the BUT was not seen by some as being as important today as it had been in the past.

She explained: “The fact that you can make decisions about education and not sit down at length with the union, and educators, and teachers, is mind-boggling.

“I wish we could take education away from this political football.”

Ms Horton added that former teachers could help get the island’s education system back to the top of the class.

She said: “We have a web of knowledge that we can draw upon to try and bring us back to where we should be.”