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Education in Belize: Quality Schools

By Gustavo A. Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant /

“Workers will not work hard unless they believe there is quality in what they are asked to do.” 
William Glasser, M.D. 

During the last few weeks, the entire country of Belize witnessed with great concern the plight of hundreds/thousands of educators and teachers whose pressing yet ignored working and workplace concerns had finally reached a boiling point. These professionals work very hard and tirelessly everyday to provide an education to our young people; yet they remain unappreciated by many, especially by those who control their very salaries, workplaces, and living conditions. BNTU (Belize National Teachers Union) and its members and backers staged many public rallies and demonstrations countrywide to showcase teachers’ concerns to the government and to the country. Extremely unfair and low teacher wages was the overwhelming concern, but very large class sizes, and insufficient continuing professional education for teachers were among other continuously ignored concerns that were not financial. After several BNTU public rallies, and meetings between union and government officials, the Prime Minister and Minister of Education finally ceded. In a press conference, the Prime Minister (was forced to?) addressed the dismal plight of educators and education in the country. Resolution: a promise of a mere 4% raise in teachers’ salaries in the future. However, did teachers win their fight? Did their recent rallies and demonstrations help to resolve their pressing concerns? 

Education in Belize: Quality Schools

As I stated in a previous article, in order to keep learning we must constantly and consistently keep feeding our genuine love and enthusiasm for Education and for learning. Enthusiasm!How long can/will it last? This is not something that we should merely do once every few years, perhaps through rallies and demonstrations, nor is it something that we can expect others to do for us. The alternative to actively and constantly improving our Education Systems, including their management and staff, is to do nothing and end up with failing schools that produce graduates who do not or cannot contribute to society.  This is definitely NOT the alternative that the developing and not-so-recently Independent nation of Belize wants or deserves today.

Education in Belize: Quality Schools

Recently, I noticed genuine concerns being aired on social media sites regarding the rapidly sinking (totally dismal) status of some high schools in Belize. It was noted that in each school no form of discipline is present or used/administered daily. Worse even, developing one’s “God given talents” is not a part of any of these schools’ goals, only repetitive and blind academic pursuit each year.  According to the concern posted on Facebook, each of these sinking schools has fallen into “chiastic structure”, miriness, and even life-threatening chaos.  In (ancient) Literature “chiastic structure” refers to the literary use of repetitive patterns or motifs to write/present the work, poem or book. (Wikipedia)  Likewise, schools literally fall apart when they are run with a total lack of vision and goals, and with no structured administration and/or classroom management.  The repetitive pattern in each sinking school can be seen in their dismal existence, repeated day in and day out, with NO goals or vision and no structure whatsoever, i.e. anything is acceptable as long as some form of (blind) academic achievement is haphazardly pursued. This is my interpretation of “chiastic structure” in several high schools and middle schools in Belize City.

Education in Belize: Quality Schools

Education in Belize: Next Steps points out definitively that the outdated and ineffective Colonial Systems of Education that the Government and Church in Belize insist on maintaining and following today, just as they did long before Independence in 1981, do not meet the nation’s pressing needs in today’s global and digital Age. Interestingly, before our country achieved Independence, we used to have very productive vocational, agricultural, and technical schools in Belize that did not stress mere academic pursuit, but intensely pursued the development of one’s “God given talents”. Today, these schools no longer exist.  Key phrases: “used to … no longer”. Why?  Who, from his mighty and regal throne, decided he could change the vision, goals, and objectives of these schools, or others? Those vocational and technical schools that existed before Independence served Belize well; but now they no longer exist! It’s time to immediately address this pressing need to provide non-academic/non-literary training, and fill this gaping hole in our nation’s far-from-developed existence. 

I wonder if our leaders, in this global and digital age, realize how very important it is that we always have qualified “hands on” workers or laborers. Of course, now that we have universities in Belize many young adults today want to pursue a university education. That ambition is admirable.  However, we will always need farmers, carpenters, plumbers, architects, electricians, maintenance engineers, automobile technicians and many other professionals who are not afraid to “get their hands dirty” while working.  Having worked for many years as a Vocational Guidance Counselor, I know that not every young student aspires to work in an office or with a computer, or anywhere that requires “dress appropriately and professionally” everyday. Nevertheless, we should encourage and respect each student’s choice(s) and also feed their enthusiasm for learning – even for non-academic or literary pursuits. In so doing, we can ensure that our cities and towns will not come to a total standstill due to a lack of much-needed “hands on” workers. 

Education in Belize: Quality Schools

Let’s not rely on outsiders and foreigners to accomplish the work necessary to build, enhance, and productively maintain/supply Belizean towns, villages, and cities from North to South, and East to West.  Let us train and produce: farmers to grow our crops; construction professionals, including carpenters, to build our homes/house and office buildings; skilled technicians to ensure that all vehicles and all things motorized or electric always work; maintenance/sanitation engineers to ensure that we always live clean; workers to repair our roads and streets. Even for much-needed entertainment, let us keep opening paths for and producing creative artists from among us to entertain us all. Or, do the current learned Education policymakers (government and church) comfortably assume that “outsiders” will do such work, thus Belizean students only need aspire to get umpteen academic passes in CXC and the other foreign made-and-corrected examinations? If we want to provide quality education to our Youth, those in control of Belize’s Education systems need to Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

Author’s Note:
These articles are not intended to be comprehensive or complete. They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community. If we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, then we can learn from our mistakes as well as success. Way to go, fellow educators!

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