Amandala confirmed today that veteran trade unionist and educator George Harold Alexander Frazer, originally of San Ignacio town and currently resident in Belize City, will retire in July after a distinguished career in education and trade unionism spanning four decades.
Frazer, 65, is leaving his post as executive secretary of the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) after 29 years on the job and a prior seventeen years in teaching, closing the curtain on a career that was driven primarily by his fiery passion for social justice and unyielding concern for the lives of his fellow educators and citizens.
Among his many stops at primary and high school are his years of teaching at the former Nazarene Primary School on Albert Street, and a stint as principal at a school in Benque Viejo. After a break for his trained teachers’ courses, he resumed at the Nazarene School until moving over in 1975 to Wesley Lower after the Nazarene Primary School was dismantled due to deterioration and its students shared among established schools in Belize City.
In 1978, he began his final teaching stint at Nazarene High School, teaching Spanish to all classes and Social Studies to the lower forms until he moved to BNTU in February of 1983.
At the Union, he served as the organization’s “troubleshooter” and public relations officer, dealing with teachers’ problems and being the senior advisor to the management and Union committees, in what he has called a “very happy and rewarding experience.”
He counts among his many achievements and “memorable moments” the expansion of the Education Rules to span all levels of education, improvements in overall conditions for teachers, and the establishment of the Teaching Services Commission to regulate the hiring and employment conditions of educators, as well as serving on the Labor Advisory Board, and the accompanying expansion of labor laws to benefit workers.
Whether it was in the classroom or on the frontlines, Frazer was able to grab the attention of people high and low by the simple causes he espoused – better working and teaching conditions; national development and respect for the rights of all.
“I have never been a person afraid to stand up for truth and justice,” Frazer told KREM News in explaining what lay under his resolve to fight continuously for the rights of the Belizean people. He noted that in his time with the union there has been rapprochement with the other major union in Belize, the Public Service Union (PSU), to work together on issues of common concern where Government previously tried to pit one against the other.
Frazer fondly recalls those days of struggle, sleepless nights and being out on the road, and in particular the shining moment of 2005 when Belize was shut down for several days because of the PSU and BNTU’s demands for reforms to public and financial management.
According to Frazer, his very life was occasionally under threat. In the KREM interview, he told for the first time the story of an incident in 2005 in which someone sabotaged the vehicle he and other union executives were traveling in to Orange Walk for a meeting.
“Probably you might not have known, when the Trade Union Congress [was] engaged with Government, one night we were going to Orange Walk for a meeting with the people there, and teachers, and when we saw the back wheel, the back wheel of one of the vehicle roll off, the right hand back wheel. When we checked we found the other back wheel, the nuts were loose, and obviously it was a case of sabotage because there were other cases at that time. We were fighting Government for the mismanagement and corruption and other things, and so many times when you stand up to defend truth and fight for the people – because it was not only about teachers and so, it was about the country and mismanagement and abuse of public funds and things like that. So, myself, Paul Perriott [former president of the Belize Communication Workers’ Union (BCWU)], Mr. Anthony Fuentes, the current Mayor [of Punta Gorda, former BNTU president], our lives were at stake! But God was with us, and that’s the important thing. You trust in God, you fight for truth and justice and you stand up, without fear.”
According to Frazer, he came very close to not joining the teaching profession and “chopping wood and backing water” at home. He was one of only two persons to receive a scholarship to study from the Cayo District after passing the scholarship examinations held at Belize Technical College, and attended Wesley College. The Government paid a $40 bursary for him to stay with someone in the City while he attended school, and his mother, Jane Cruz, who started the local Red Cross, let him know he had to make something of himself and take care of his family.
He hands over his post to understudy Keisha Young Flowers at the BNTU. The father of two (who met his wife when she was a BNTU secretary) says he will now pursue some business ventures while finally devoting some time to his family and to travel. He will live in his hometown at his property located not far from the local police station.
Frazer holds a Meritorious Service Award from the Government of Belize (in 2008), and last February a street was named after him in Belize City as an award from the Belize City Council, in addition to numerous awards in teaching and trade unionism.
In his “parting shot”, Frazer touted the value of education and technical and vocational training for those not inclined to academics, and the importance of taking care of our women and respecting them, and even the role of the police in enforcing the law.
But he also warned that if he is needed and called upon, he will not hesitate to return to the forefront, where he has been for so long.
Amandala joins the teaching and trade union community in wishing Mr. Frazer the very best on the life ahead of him.
Story courtesy Amandala