On May 31st, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Honourable Patrick Faber held a town’s meeting here in Orange Walk at the Gala Lounge. The meeting started at 6:00 in the evening and went well on to about 10:30 in the night. Apart from discussing the National Strategic Plan, Minister Faber spoke about the pros and cons of the education system in Belize during his lengthy speech. With the aim of improving the country’s education system, Faber proposes to amalgamate schools. It’s a rather daring plan, but the Minister says the idea is to create more space for students, especially for those living in rural communities.

patrick-faber1Patrick Faber, Minister of Education Youth and Sports

“We can bus people from San Juan Nuevo. Bus the students from Douglas. Bring them to San Pablo. We can unite the two campuses, San Pablo RC and San Pablo Community. Correct if I am wrong. And what they complain about at San Pablo RC about 40 children to a teacher can readily be solved if we amalgamate. We can save money and put monies into making sure that there is a better quality of education in that area.”

As we mentioned last week the Ministries plan is to offer free secondary education to students across the board and negotiations are already in the process, according to the Minister.

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education Youth and Sports

There are two other parts of that formula or that initiative that is important for you to know. One, there is now the negotiation going on for the fees that these schools charge to be reduced because the fees are astronomical. You know right. You have to pay it. Many of you are teachers but also parents. So you know that it is expensive. We believe that with the formula, you won’t need any fees. But if you insist because you know that schools will insist upon that then let’s try to get it down to $300, $400 or $500. Then the government subsidy program can be applied to pay for it if you so desire. The government is looking to extend the subsidy to 3rd form now. It is not going to happen this year but it will happen. After 3rd form we are going to push it to 4th form. And I tell you how we plan to deal with the books now. The kindle or a nook is e-readers. It is advertising on the TV for US$79 for a kindle. The kindle had hold the four years worth of text book. The government can then give that kindle with the books to the students.”

And according to Faber, the responsibility of improving the education system does not solely fall on the shoulders of the Ministry but on all education stakeholders, including the church.

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education Youth and Sports

“The school comes out with a portion of the money, the church comes up with a portion of the money- it’s them that owns the school, and the government will find a third. I am ready whenever they are ready but the church must come up with their amount. There was another denomination and I will not call their names that came to me and said that they, “need to wire the building because the building is old and if we don’t change the wires then the building will catch fire.” They said that it will cost them $28,000 to do, can the ministry help? I said, “Yes the ministry can help. But tell me how much is the church going to give?” They said, “The church doesn’t have the money right now because we have a lot of other problems that we need to find money for. Well we are prepared to come up with our third of the money, when you find your portion of the money and when the church can afford then I guess then the wires will be change.”

Faber is scheduled to be in the Stann Creek District sometime this week.