Clare Browne responds to ‘chaotic’ re-opening claims by teachers union president

Director of Education Clare Browne
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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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Pronouncements by the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT) appear to be at odds with conversations that reportedly took place with education officials about the reopening of schools.

Students in grades 5 and 6, 4th and 5th formers as well as those in the tertiary setting, returned to regular classes on Monday to facilitate preparation for upcoming exams.

But ABUT President Kimdale Mackellar, who is also a teacher at All Saints Secondary School, told Observer that this plan was chaotic, and pointed to poor levels of communication between school administrators and education officials.

Yesterday, Director of Education Clare Browne seemed shocked and alarmed over Mackellar’s statements that there was a lack of planning for the resumption of some face-to-face lessons.

Browne recalled that the union never objected to the education ministry’s plans when it was presented to them at a meeting.

The Ministry of Education would have accommodated a meeting with the union at 1 o’clock on Tuesday March 23rd…there is a record of that Zoom meeting and we met for three and a half hours,” Browne explained yesterday.

He said plans for the return to regular classes were among the items discussed.

“Without objection, the Ministry of Education would have concluded that they were in support for that way of reopening,” he said.

A seemingly baffled Browne further explained that the union also proposed the guidelines used to reopen schools.

 “So, there could not be any objections because we were using the very same proposals the union presented to the ministry. I can tell you further that the president of the union called the education minister, fully supporting the ministry for the reopening of schools,” Browne said.

“There are other strategies that we could have used but any strategy we would have engaged, somebody would have something to say about it, but we chose to use the one that the union is now opposing.”

Meanwhile, Browne is rubbishing claims that the reopening of schools was chaotic, as purported by Mackellar.

 “I was deeply disturbed by that pronouncement. For the entire day I would have called the 43 public principals we have in this country. I didn’t get three of them…and in no school was there any chaos, the day before nor yesterday [Tuesday].”

Browne said the issue may have been challenges with internet connection, something that he said his ministry anticipated and will continue to address.

Mackellar maintained that while he understood there would be many challenges, a clearly defined plan should have been in place.

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