NICH’s Essay Competition analyses social and cultural cohesiveness

We often hear of secondary school competition on the courts, fields and playing grounds. But the Institute of Social and Cultural Research designed a competition of the mind that questions the ties that bind us together as a people. The high school competition had the participation of close to a dozen schools, and the finalists in the essay contest gave well informed views about the state of the country and how far we’ve come socially and culturally since independence in 1981. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports from the House of Culture.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The Institute of Social and Cultural Research’s essay competition was whittled down from ten to three schools. How cohesive are we socially and culturally since 1981? The first participant Gian Aguilar, a sacred Heart College Student, spoke about music and the Creole language as the glue that holds ethnic groups together.

Gian Aguilar, Sacred Heart College

Gian Aguilar

“The glue that has brought social and cultural cohesion to Belize since its independence would definitely have to be Belize’s rich music and unifying Creole language and the efforts of the government to educate its people and to provide health care and improve infrastructure. No society can prosper under colonial exploitation, oppression and dependency. These were exactly the conditions under which Belize was while a colony of Great Britain where social chaos reigned and cohesion was poor. Belize was poorly developed economically infrastructure in the country was terrible and healthcare was scarce and not accessible for all Belizeans—creating many divisions and inequalities among the people. There is still a level of prejudice among some races and social classes. Crime, violence and corruption, the biggest issues in our Belizean society today, prevent the nation from reaching its full potential of social and cultural cohesion. Let us unite Belize! Let us leave all the crime violence and corruption behind! And this way and only this way can we ensure ourselves a bright and promising future.”

Amenzee Amu

The only female finalist, Amenzee Amu, a Palotti High School student spoke of crime and migration relevant factors to social cohesiveness.

Amenzee Amu, Palotti High School

“Since our independence, we made some improvements in the breaking down of segregation and the acceptance of different cultures. Conversely, an area in which progress has been limited includes our inability to control violence and establishing a fair system of social mobility. Clearly, migration patterns has caused a gap between ethnic groups—the Garifuna settled in the south and Mestizo in the north, Creole in Central Belize and Cayo Districts and the other cultures found their homes in the same or other parts of the country. Our society today has really disintegrated, so much that lives have been taken, but not a single solution has been found as yet. It is difficult to concede that there is unity when criminal elements seem to have complete dominance in Belize City and are creeping their ways into other districts.”

Andre Alamina, St. John’s College

Andre Alamina

“There are five dimensions to social cohesion and they are all equally essential to achieving cohesion in a nation. Material conditions, passive and active relationships and also inclusion and equality are five fundamental components to achieving social cohesion. Under material conditions comes employment, income, health, education and housing. On a closer examination of the current state of the above components in our country, you will see that they lend their hand to the belief that social cohesion is still something lacking in our beautiful country of democracy. The IMF reports are that roughly thirty percent of our country’s working population were unemployed in the year 2010. Now this percentage can see a considerably increase in the year 2011 with a number of companies now being held in receivership.”

John Morris

After the presentations, the Associate Director of the Institute of Archaeology spoke about the colonial history as well as global popular culture as oft unwelcomed patterns in Belize’s journey to becoming cohesive.

John Morris, Associate Director, Institute of Archaeology

“The three schools that have come to the forefront here are three Catholic schools. I ask the question; ‘What happened to the public schools? Do they not have bright intelligent students or are we seeing precisely what these young people have spoken about—about the inequity of the educational system in this country? We have to recognize to some degree that what we need to understand about Belize’s social cohesiveness is that we have to understand what culture is, what our culture is, where did our culture come from and where (God forbid) is going. That is the key. I will point something out to you; since 1981, this is the first competition on social and cultural cohesiveness that I can recall ever taken place. Why has it taken us thirty years to do this?”

The winner of the essay contest was S.J.C.’s Andre Alamina. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Second place winner was Amenzee Amu from Pallotti High School while Gian Aguilar from Sacred Heart in San Ignacio placed third.

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