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Ruth Shoman Officially Steps Down as B.N.T.U. President

Sep 1, 2023

Ruth Shoman Officially Steps Down as B.N.T.U. President

Ruth Shoman

B.N.T.U. President Ruth Shoman assumed office on July third, succeeding Senator Elena Smith in the leadership of the teachers union.  Her tenure, in the first instance, was for a period of two years.  But tonight, she has stepped down from the post and this time Shoman’s resignation is official and standing.  It comes on the heels of a recent challenge to Shoman’s eligibility to hold the position after she reportedly claimed to be employed as a facilitator by the U.S. State Department.  That claim was later set straight that Shoman was not hired by the U.S. State Department as an employee.  Earlier this week, the Ministry of Education also issued a release clarifying statements made by the President of the Belize National Teachers Union regarding the implementation of the Competency-based Education Curriculum.  Tonight, we look at the abbreviated tenure of the B.N.T.U. president.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize National Teachers Union is arguably the most powerful among the various labor organizations that form the Trade Union Congress.  Since its establishment in July 1970, B.N.T.U. has been represented by sturdy leadership and, along the way, has also cemented the legacies of well-known Belizean educators and activists, including George Frazer and Luke Palacio.  On April thirteenth, the exercise of power transitioned from two-term president Elena Smith to former national secretary Ruth Shoman.

Iona Ramirez

Iona Ramirez, Election Chief, B.N.T.U. Convention

“Ifasina Efunyemi: two hundred and twenty-six votes; Ray Martinez: seventy-one votes; Ruth Shoman: three hundred [and] fifty-six votes, which makes Ruth Shoman our president.”

Her tenure has been fleeting and is likely to go down as the shortest reign for a B.N.T.U. president.  On August thirty-first, Shoman, who has been under attack by her colleagues in the teachers union, served notice of an immediate departure from office.  The resignation comes two days after Shoman’s last public statement during which she acknowledged that forces from within were working against her.

Ruth Shoman

Ruth Shoman, President, Belize National Teachers Union [File: August 29th, 2023]

“Some individual and I don’t know who have decided to make it public.  I won’t follow suit.  BNTU is, I believe, one of the strongest unions in our country and bringing things out and some, many a times misleading.  Those who really love the union wouldn’t do that because BNTU is a private organization and I will keep it as that whatever issues are happening, are being addressed by the Council of Management, and that’s how it should be.”

Despite a firm stance earlier this week in the face of the overwhelming assaults, Shoman threw in the towel last night.  In her letter to the Executive Secretary, she writes, quote, this was not an easy decision for me, but after the multiple abusive attacks against me, I have decided to walk away from this toxicity for my own well-being, end quote.

Ruth Shoman

“I think one of our biggest downfalls as human beings is that we put labels on each other.  And the minute we do, we start dividing ourselves.  I won’t do that.  Everyone is entitled to their individual comment and their individual opinion.  That’s I think, a right that we have and we’re talking about rights today.  And I have a right to say that the issues that surround me are private and we are addressing them and I just need my members to know that the work of the union is ongoing and they are at the forefront and they are what matter.”

Shoman’s ascension to the highest office in the union was criticized by a number of individuals, including those who contested the leadership position at the last election.  According to Shoman, the attacks continued and were aimed squarely at her eligibility.  In a six-page document outlining the reasons for her resignation, she writes, quote, an attorney was sought by council.  The outcome of those discussions was never disclosed to me.  I sought my own legal advice and was informed that the council had created a legitimate expectation and I did not need to prove my eligibility to be a member.  I still chose to do so.  I shared this with both the First Vice President and yourself, but I did not authorize you to share it with anyone as I do not have a legal obligation to provide such information.  Now that I have resigned, you nor the First Vice President have the legal right to disclose my personal information to anyone, including Council of Management, as this is a direct violation of my privacy, end quote.

Shoman, you would recall, initially announced her resignation in May, but rescinded her letter of withdrawal in short order.

Elena Smith

Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union [File: May 10th, 2023]

“As you all know, she tendered her resignation.  This morning she rescinded that resignation so she remains our president-elect and come July third she is going to be in office as our new BNTU president for the next two years.”

Regrettably, Shoman lasted less than two months.

Isani Cayetano for News Five.

Shoman is being replaced by First Vice-President Jorge Mejia.