And from there the party moved over to its headquarters on Queen Street to launch its education reform framework. This is one year after the party launched its social justice platform - which got lukewarm reviews - most probably backlash after the party's ten year neo-liberalist binge. But with education, they wanted to get it right - and to do that they pulled out a career educator with senior pup credentials. 7News was there:..
Daniel Ortiz reporting
PUP Standard Bearers, Caretakers, and Area Reps, all crowded into Independence Hall along with Party loyalists.
They were there for the Party's release of ideas targeted at Education Reform.
And to introduce their concepts, the first two speakers, Cordel Hyde and Francis Fonseca, two former ministers of education, spoke generally about what is currently wrong with the education system.
Cordel Hyde - PUP Standard Bearer, Lake I
"It's sad to say our system is broken and needs fixing. When you have high schools on south side of Belize City that have taken 150 students at the start of the school year and 4 years later only graduating 30 students - that's a broken down system. When you have thousands of young students left despondent each year after taking the primary school examination - that's a broken down system. And don't tell me of some success stories to point out that the system is working, as if such success is available to all youths who lives in south side Belize City or southern Belize."
Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition
"The People's United Party believes in education. We believe that education is the great equalizer."
And so, the Party turned to this man, Yasser Musa, a son of Said Musa, an educator for 20 years, an avid follower of history, and an artist.
Musa was tasked to come up with the appropriate education reform model, and he has been dialoging with students and teachers countrywide at different education levels.
He believes that he has come up a draft policy change to education which confronts the issues which limit academic success. It is very ambitious, attempting to recapture young minds and encourage a curiosity for learning.
Yasser Musa - Leading PUP's Education Reform
"I come here as Mr. Price would say with a sense of occasion to make this presentation called, Education: Creativity plus Technology, a Framework of Ideas for Belize. Over the past few months, people from across our amazing country, have been sending in their ideas, suggestions, comments and views about what we could do to renew our education system. The outdated system that we have maintained and in some quarters celebrated, has become a treadmill of boredom that most youth see as a waste of time. Our children are forced into a box, where piles of rules and regulations are set, establishing growing indifference. We are teaching too much compliance and not enough democracy. Creativity is the key and yes technology is the critical. It must become the DNA of twenty first century education."
So, how would this framework of education reform work?
Yasser Musa - Leading PUP's Education Reform
"Students must come first. We must teach them to be self-directed, autonomous. To stand up and speak for themselves and to question authority. We must make sure that our children don't go to school hungry. We must return to the basics; to math and English and science. We cannot clutter a generation that has access to google and the internet with 10-15 subjects. Who do we think we are? So many UB students emailed me, Galen students, Junior college students - that they can't get even a little subsidy. All that talk they are talking out there is bogus. Our students can't find the money to go to school and what is even more shocking is that only 4 out of every 100 Belizean students get an opportunity to go to junior college or university. Priority must be given to early childhood education. How are we losing this idea about curiosity that our children, our young kids have of wanting to know this, asking questions. They ask so many questions between the ages of 3 and 9 and then the questions start to fade. Our teachers are nation builders, not, I can't repeat the word... what our own minister has called them. We need to have innovative teacher education programs plus in service training, which means, that while they are in school - even me 20 years in, I need to be constantly trained. We also have to invest in Wi-Fi for our school systems. I know the young people know what I am talking about and I know they will clap when I say that when they go to school and turn on the internet it makes a snail looks like a rabbit, you agree? The Prime Minister can do something by this afternoon, tell your son to turn on the internet. In this great hall of independence let us work together to deal with the dinosaur. We appreciate it for what it was at a certain time, but certainly, it is no longer able to function for the youth of today. Together, we must create an exciting educational model that can meet the needs of now."
The Education reform package is still not finalized, and the party says it welcomes ideas from the public.