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Rocky day 1 for new BNTU president

Photo: Ruth Shoman, President, BNTU

Dissatisfied BNTU members file petition seeking injunction against Shoman’s presidency

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 3, 2023

Things are heating up in the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) as scrutiny among its membership revolves around the appointment of its new president, Ruth Guerra Shoman.

Since her appointment back in April of this year, Shoman’s ascension to the presidency has not been without controversy. Shortly after winning her seat, criticism over her qualifications began to surface, particularly when it comes to her past, where Shoman was reportedly involved in embezzling $110,000 in connection with Island Marketers Ltd. and Belize Yacht Club. Teachers who defend Shoman’s presidency have argued that this incident occurred long before her teaching career began.

Additional concerns are being raised regarding Shoman’s suitability for the role, with some questioning whether she had the necessary teaching experience and professional competence to lead the union. Shoman claims to have been employed by an educational institution in the U.S.

According to BNTU’s Rule III (À)(4)(b) of the Constitution and By-Laws: “After due process, the Union, by decision of Council, may cancel the membership of persons who (i) violate the ethical and professional code laid down by the Union; or (ii) are convicted of criminal offenses or grave professional misconduct.”

Rule III (A)(1) states, “Members shall consist of all persons so accepted and designated by the Union and shall be classified as follows: Teachers in active service in a public or private educational institute approved by the Union.”

Her detractors say that Shoman has continually failed to provide necessary documents clearing her name, fueling doubt about her credibility as the Union’s president. Since Shoman officially took office on July 1st, dissatisfied members of the BNTU have taken the bold step of filing a petition in court, requesting an injunction against her presidency.

Simultaneously, the dissatisfied group issued a press release, vocalizing their concern with the legitimacy and leadership of Shoman and their disappointment with the BNTU’s Council of Management.

The release said: “It is clear that the actions and history of Ruth Shoman raise legitimate concerns about her eligibility to hold the position of president within the BNTU. As concerned members, we have tried to address and resolve these issues via BNTU’s Council of Management but to no avail. This has led us to have no confidence in the objectivity and impartiality of the Council of Management.”

Our attempts to reach Shoman have not been unsuccessful. However, reports are that she isn’t going to be swayed by the controversy. It’s anyone’s guess how this will impact her role and the work of the union. We also reached out to the former president, Elena Smith, for a comment on her take on things, but she said she was unable to do so due to her traveling schedule.

BNTU is a prominent force within Belize’s social and political sectors, and as such, this internal conflict could have significant consequences for the broader Belizean community. The union, responsible for advocating for the rights and interests of teachers nationwide, is vital for maintaining Belize’s educational standards and overall social welfare, making the result of this case all the more crucial.