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Authorities not clear on exact number of teachers who exited service

Authorities not clear on exact number  of teachers who exited service
Myccle Burke

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Local authorities seem to be still unclear on the exact number of teachers who are no longer considered to be a part of the teaching service due to the government’s COVID-19 vaccination policy. 

But as of Wednesday, just over 100 persons had already been hired by the Ministry of Education to fill the gaps in the absence of teachers who have not taken the jab.

“We have about 100 teachers on contract…a one month engagement in the first instance,” Myccle Burke, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday afternoon. 

SR&O #28 of 2021, which requires certain public workers, including teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to maintain their posts, came into effect on November 19. 

The Ministry of Education, during this time issued a call for persons to submit their CVs in the event a need arose for additional persons to be hired, should teachers choose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the deadline given.

Friday, December 3 was the final day for teachers and the other specified groups of public workers to be vaccinated, if they were to keep their jobs. 

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Wednesday that close to 200 teachers collectively sought exemptions on medical or religious grounds. 

Gonsalves noted that 45 educators sought medical exemptions. He added that the medical exemptions were granted on a varying, temporary basis, depending on one’s situation. 

The prime minister noted that some may have had COVID and had to wait for a certain amount of time to elapse before they could take the vaccine, while others “would’ve had some medical condition which may necessitate a temporary exemption of some sort or the other”. 

Approximately 150 teachers sought medical exemptions but according to Gonsalves, only 17 were granted. 

“I’ve been advised that 17 of them from four particular religious denominations, which as I have been advised, have as a matter of doctrine, a doctrine against vaccination,” he said during his weekly appearance on NBC radio on Wednesday.

“Those religions are, I’ve been advised; Life by Faith Ministries, Nyabinghi Order, Thusia Seventh Day Adventist Church, and the Assemblies of Yahweh.” 

The Prime Minister said the 17 approved names were sent to the Ministry of Education to see if those persons can be accommodated elsewhere. 

There are about 88 primary and secondary schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines; and around 2000 teachers in the education system.

Gonsalves said he believes that the number of unvaccinated teachers in this country is fewer than 320 but he did not indicate definite figures as to how many may have been deemed as having abandoned their posts, in keeping with the SR&O and the Public Service regulations. 

“Because what had happened is that before the 3rd of December, before Friday, the Ministry of Education couldn’t have known how many new persons they should hire because they wouldn’t know how many persons had taken the vaccines, would be taking the vaccine even in that 10-day “grace period”…,” he explained. “So they were cautious. They wanted to hire enough so there would be no real disruption or any significant disruptions, but as they get the numbers clearer, they obviously would hire more…”

As of Wednesday, the prime minister could also not definitively identify the schools in which these temporary teachers were placed, but said that they went mostly sent to primary schools.

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