25th of August, 2021. Georgetown, Guyana, South AmericaLast updated: August 25, 2021 at 8:14 am
The Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teacher’s Union are at loggerheads over the government’s vaccine policies. The Ministry of Education has recently implemented rules meant to coerce teachers and other employees into getting vaccinated – at the risk of losing their job if they do not comply. For example, one rule states that teachers who are not vaccinated must submit a valid PCR test every week and the cost of the test must be paid for by the teacher. This cost could easily amount to more than some teachers’ monthly salary. At the same time, the PCR test is painful, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous.
The Guyana Teacher’s Union, which is a Union set up to represent teachers across Guyana and protect their rights, has said no to the Ministry of Education’s vaccine policies. The Guyana teacher’s union has insisted that teachers, and all other citizens, must have the right to choose whether or not they want to get vaccinated without the threat of penalty of fear of reprisal.
The Ministry of Education is an organ of the Guyana government whose role is to educate Guyanese citizens by hiring teachers and other staff and acquiring educational material, equipment and infrastructure. The Guyana Teacher’s Union’s role is to represent teacher’s rights for reasonable wages and good working conditions.
The Ministry of Education is ambitiously hoping to reopen schools for face-to-face teaching on the 6th of September, 2021 and is hoping that all teachers would get vaccinated before that date. The Guyana Teacher’s Union on the other hand has said that most classes should continue virtually since many teachers have opted not to take the vaccine as yet.
Earlier this year, in March, when the first batch of Covid 19 vaccines arrived in Guyana, the Guyana Teacher’s Union and the Ministry of Education issued a joint statement that all teachers are encouraged to get the vaccine, but said that vaccination will never be mandatory for teachers or any other citizen.
While no law has been officially legislated that makes Covid-19 vaccination mandatory in Guyana, the “measures” put in place are so coercive and punishing for the unvaccinated that it is just one step short of a mandatory rule. For example, unvaccinated citizens are stripped of their civil rights by being denied access to government offices and hospitals. Further, unvaccinated workers in both the private and public sectors are required to produce a valid PCR test every week showing a negative Covid status.