Ottos Comprehensive teachers stage sit-in for third straight day over security fears

Teachers say inadequate security threatens their safety (Photos by Observer’s Gemma Handy)
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Classes at the Ottos Comprehensive School (OCS) were disrupted for the third straight day yesterday as teachers at the secondary school continued a sit-in amid concerns about security.

A Teachers’ Union representative on the scene on Friday told Observer that improved security is a part of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the Ministry of Education.

“If something is to happen, we are basically left here with no form of security for the students themselves and the school on a whole.

“When you have students who have their issues – we are all humans and sometimes conflicts arise and we’ve had altercations in the past, we haven’t had any in the past few months or so, we have been good but when it comes to children – we need to ensure that security is met at all times because anything is possible,” Sheriez Browne said.

Similar sit-ins took place at other schools across Antigua this week. School security – which falls under the remit of the Ministry of Works – has been an ongoing issue in the country for months with numerous reports of incidents of theft and vandalism, along with violence between students themselves.

Browne, who has been a teacher for 16 years, added that the profession was becoming “hard” to bear.

Howard Gore, one of around 100 teachers at Ottos Comprehensive, said he had joined this week’s action in solidarity with his colleagues.

“We have a lack of resources as well as security challenges,” he told Observer.

“There are growing attacks on teachers and we are not feeling safe when we come here with one security personnel on a campus as big as this.

“Our society is leaning towards an increase in gang violence among our youth and we don’t know what could happen.

“Until one of us is seriously injured I don’t think the relevant authorities will do what is right. It’s unfair for us to leave the safety of our homes to come to work and feel unsafe,” Gore added.

The government has previously pledged to improve school security by expanding the number of guards on duty. Earlier this month, Cabinet revealed that a benefactor with a “great love for Antigua and Barbuda” had purchased cameras and monitoring devices to help address school security problems.

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