On Saturday, August 28th, stakeholders in the education sector of the community came together for a workshop regarding the National School Safety Policy. The workshop is sponsored by the Ministry of Education of the Government of Belize (GOB), and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) OFDA/LAC (Offices of Foreign Disaster Assistance/Latina America & Caribbean). In April of 2010, the GOB's Ministry of Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States of America to develop a School Safety Policy for all schools in Belize.
The three year process should yield a draft of the National Policy which will be integrated in all schools across Belize, as well as create awareness of the issues associated with creating a safe environment in our schools. Stakeholders will be consulted and informed regarding the need for such a policy. By the third year, the objectives of the quality child-friendly schools initiative (Key Area #7) will be fulfilled. That initiative is in fact that Belize will provide a Safe, Healthy and Supportive Learning Environment for its students.
The meeting took place downstairs of the San Pedro Town Hall, and included the participation of representatives of Caye Caulker, for both the Roman Catholic Primary School and Ocean Academy, a representative for San Pedro High School, The San Pedro Sun, Brighter Tomorrow Pre-School, the SP Fire Department, NEMO, SP's Education Officer, Traffic Department, a Town Councilor, Nurse Natalie Palen and a member of the ACLBA (Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority). Ms. Miriam Codd, Corozal's Education Officer and chairwoman of the National School Safety Taskforce for the Development of a National School Safety Policy for Belize and the Caribbean led the workshop. Consultant Beryl Armbrister (contracted by USAID) and Maria Correa (Early Childhood Education Officer) were present during the various presentations as well.
Those present were asked to give their ideas about a course of action regarding a variety of scenarios that could possibly happen. With times a-changing, and the problems faced by the Belizean society becoming more complex, it is important to have a policy in place to best handle any scenario that threatens the safety of school children. The exercise presented a variety of scenarios, and asked for a list of stakeholders, along with a course of action that should have been taken before the incident, and what should be done during and after the incident. Key to the exercise was the realization that a school safety policy needs to be in writing, and drills need to be done to keep everyone alert and focused so that if and when required, students can be led to safety.
The team has been travelling all over the country getting the input of all stakeholders in each community so that the policy that is drafted contains the best ideas and suggestions. According to Miriam Codd, the decisions need to be made by those who actually have an interest in the education system, and know what they are talking about. It is not about "Bureaucrats and people who are removed from the situation to make the decisions." The first draft of the policy is expected to be handed in by October of 2010. Stakeholders from Corozal, Belize City, Dangriga, Cayo, Punta Gorda and the Cayes (San Pedro, Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker) have already been consulted. Last on the map is Orange Walk district. The group will be meeting once again, and it is hoped that there will be an active participation from the Town Council, including the Mayor and Councilors, as well as the teachers from the various schools, will be able to attend.
San Pedro Sun