Saturday, June 13, 2009
EDUCATION PROBLEMS IN BELIZE
primary school in Belize
Patrick Faber, UDP Minister of Education
STIRRINGS NOTED IN THE EDUCATION MINISTRY
The statistics are kind of scarce in a recent front page Guardian newspaper article. We did get that there are 860 teachers in our education system with Associate Degrees. Of these, the best 350 teachers with Associate Degrees will get further paid advanced teacher training. It didn’t specify what type, though the article did say it would be in their home districts of Belize. The Guardian newspaper is the controlling government political party propaganda rag. Teacher training by whom, what, and content, was left to the imagination. PRIMARY SCHOOL EDUCATION is the biggest problem facing the nation of Belize and it has been so, from back in British Honduras Colonial Days. The population grows exponentially and small children always dominate the population statistics. Our biggest problem in education in Belize, is the early failed leaving statistics from primary schools, our Standard 6, or USA and Canadian Grade 8. Meaning about 70% of our adults do not either read, write, or comprehend properly, the necessities to be entrepreneurs, or enhance their capabilities and quality of life issues. Nor to even deal with government bureaucratic departments, which is at the root of the Maya land issue problems and land titles for new remote villages being created and settled by subsistence farmer types of population, particularly in the highlands of the Toledo District. The world population is expected to rise from 7 BILLION people, to 9 ½ BILLION PEOPLE over the next 15 years. All those people have to eat and Belizeans should be able to grow and sell them packaged and processed food as an export business. With most of the population not even being able to read and write properly as they grow up, education is failing our nation and population, mostly at the Primary School level.
The BELIZE EDUCATION MINISTRY is putting a big push to outfit the two most difficult rugged remote and thinly populated districts; the Stann Creek District and Toledo District with allocated monies from the UDP CABINET priority list. UDP Minister Patrick Faber is the man in charge of overseeing this Education push. The Education Department push is for more High Schools in these two districts. Percentage wise, there are not many children that finish primary school in these two rural districts, to even qualify to go to High School. So an elite class is being formed in these two districts, by affordability presumably, of a High School education. Those elite few, about 30 % of the child populations in these two districts will however, have access to High School, which in Belize is usually not FREE, but paid for. This by intervention of Education Department subsidies to pay for them to attend High School. This is a good thing, within the limits of funding availability by government tax revenue collections. What percentage of the 30% of children actually graduating primary schools in these two remote districts will actually take advantage of a paid opportunity for High School, is as yet an unknown statistic. More upper education ( above basic primary school ) classrooms are being added in these two districts. Julian Cho Technical High just had four new buildings added. In the planning stage is a new building at the Toledo Community College. No one knows when education department plans can turn from dreams to reality, due to scarcity of money for such things, in competition with the need for bridges, roads, new border frontier custom posts and so on. In Stann Creek District, the old Roman Catholic religion owned Lynam Agriculture College is being re-opened again with another 400 acres of land added. I don’t know if they will still own this old Agriculture College, or if it has been taken over by the government? Taiwan is being asked to assist here and also the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Plans seem to be further ahead here, as the agriculture school already existed once, though closed and there has been many new advances in vegetable and food growing skills in tropical Belize, thanks to the Belize Development Trust ( NGO ) vegetable growing research over the past three years, plus a small scale, revamped Agricultural department in the line of food growing skills.
Small as these things are, they are still very inadequate, but as always, money is the key and more importantly the method of distributing money to fund growth of education, in a lopsided church/state system. Every crackpot religious cult, under some charismatic weirdo, can start a school under this system and after 3 years initial start up, get 80% of their operating costs of a private school re-imbursed by the Education Department. Even so, there is still a huge shortage of primary school classrooms all over the country and pupil to teacher teaching ratios are horrendous.