Friends give boys a second chance
The Reporter

Friday, 27 October 2006

By Lisbeth Ayuso

Individualised attention makes a big difference at Friends Boys School.

Oftentimes slow learners are labeled as class dunces. More often than not they are subjected to belittling comments such as “lazy, dunce, stupid” or worse.

These simple words do not break bones as sticks and stones do, but they cause a lot more damage - the kind that erodes self-esteem and results in the destruction of hopes and dreams.

For a child, such words can contribute to poor grades or add to the rising drop-out rate in Belize today.

The results of either can be detrimental to a child who has not mastered basic primary material. -As a result his educational opportunities become restricted.

Yet all is not lost for such children. Hope can be found in a small school which is determined to give such students a second chance at earning a much needed education.It is called the Friends Boys’ School.

This unique learning institution is designed to enroll students who have fallen through the cracks at the primary school level and give them the foundation, the skills and confidence to continue on to high school. Designed to accommodate a maximum of 30 students, the school only has 17 boys enrolled today.

Michael Cain, the school’s principal would like to see more youths take advantage of his programme.

So what makes Friends so special? For starters it only offers a basic curriculum - Math, English, Social Studies and Science. It does not offer the traditional range of subjects because Friend’s aim is different from that of conventional schools. It strives to build confidence in mastering core subjects and restoring self-esteem in the process.

Michael Cain maintains that a lot of students who have given up on school have been thrown to the wolves at an early age by those who have not nurtured self-esteem and not taken time out to show children that the work can be done.

The small number of students per class enables Friends to give students individualised attention. Something Michael Cain is proud of.

“The minute the boys see they can do the work, their attitude changes. Their eyes light up, they become excited and the next problem becomes easier.”

Once students learn that what they regarded as difficult can be mastered, confidence and the willingness to learn accelerate.

The programme lasts for a year after which they receive a certificate. Cain says a year makes tremendous difference as boys also get a chance to mature during that time.

Many Friends graduates go on to become honour students. He estimates that 60% or more actually finish high school and make something of themselves.

History of Friends

Located at #4 Allenby Street in Belize City, the school was started in 1988 by Sadie Vernon. She saw the need for a boy’s continuation school.

Sadie Vernon is also responsible for starting the Belize Continuation School for Girls which has been renamed in her honour.

Fully supported by the Quakers of the United States of America, Friends continues its work under the management of Michael Cain and his wife, Kay.

Together the Cains have dedicated their lives to education in Belize since 1995 when they took over the school from Sadie Vernon.

And their work continues to the point where they now plan on establishing a high school in La Democracia Village at Mile 30 Western Highway, catering to the needs of Rural Belize. The Quakers , through the Cain team have contributed towards the new structure.

On completion the school will cater to some 400 male and female students.

The plan is to offer an academic programme but the Cains habour hopes of introducing a technical programme as well.

“A basic education is important if we are to have children grow up to be productive citizens,” educator Michael Cain insists.

“I hope more young men learn of our school and take advantage of our programme.”

Recently the Cains offered 25 scholarships to the Friends Boy’s School.

Unfortunately only one student took up the generous offer.

“Help us get the word out. We want to help those who feel they have no options. We can help! ”If you’d like to contribute to the Cains cause please call #227-0449.