I look back on a life of change in our country and society. Back when I was young, we had a shallow well, caught rainwater in a tank, used old 5 gallon lard tins, to smoulder coconut husks, to provide smoke, during the calms and line squalls of June and July. There were times, the only relief from swarms of sandflies and mosquitoes, was standing in the heavy smoke cloud from a half dozen smoke pots situated around the beach in front of your house. We went to the toilet on a wooden bar on a small pier, to watch the feces hit the water and be eaten by crabs. Toilet paper was the Belize Times newspaper, or remnants of brown paper bags. Outhouses were the norm all over the country. Or a 5 gallon bucket, which would later be dumped on the mainland, in the local river.

The SWING BRIDGE in the port town looked over swarms of catfish feeding off feces and dead dogs floating underneath, with the outgoing current. The RATS were as big as cats, cockroaches numbered in the millions, in the wooden houses.

I well remember my young girls, now in their 40´s getting bitten by both rats and cockroaches while sleeping in the port town of Belize City. They were going to HIGH SCHOOL there. The second growing generation of youngsters in Belize to experience higher education. There were mule carts carrying freight from stores to coastal boats.

Times have changed over the decades. Now most anybody has a motorized vehicle. Bicyles today are rare, so rare than the police do not even insist on a headlight, or hand pump and other bicycle paraphenelia of yesteryear. People no longer shop in a corner store for rice and beans and pig tails, or neck and back. Cooking their own over a kerosene stove, or fire heart with wood. Today people have washing machines, electric stoves, or of butane. Hot showers, running water, television and electricity. The stores sell imported packaged processed foods, ready made to go. It no longer takes two or three days to travel round trip from Caye Caulker by sailboat and do your monthly shopping. The trip today is fast, taking about 50 minutes in a fast water taxi speedboat. We had nobody in goverment civil service with a Bachelors Degree fifty years ago. Now the University overproduces, worthless GOVERNMENT CLERKS with paper degrees called Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates. Highly educated people, address the media in the country lamenting the lack of clerical salaried jobs for their higher education pieces of paper they wave in the breeze. Just like the Mennonite Rice producers, we have overproduced, an educated elite bunch of CLERKS, looking for salaried jobs in industry and mostly government. The fight and squabble at election time, to be on the right side of the political party that will win, in order to get one of the choice limited government clerical jobs available by patronage.

The more things change, it seems the more they seem to stay the same?

Somehow the rise in the standard of living is a good thing. Not many want to return to a life of 50 years ago. You would find it hard to find a housewife that didn´t want a washing machine, or refrigerator today.

There are still in rural parts of our nation, people living this old way, without running water, or electricity, and often with no roads. I don´t know any, that really want to do this. They might like the rural life, but would like to have it with the material conveniences.

EDUCATION we find, has failed the country and the population. Nowadays the new challenges are how to industrialize on a small scale and start exporting. Nobody among the old CLERKS waving their paper doctorates seem to have any answer? We have soft beds, clean sheets, and even air conditioning in a lot of places, that once sweated away the summer heat at a desk in an office, or took a siesta under a coconut tree with a cool trade wind blowing. Massive unemployment is the result of an uneducated in a REAL WORLD practical pragmatic growing population. While the unemployment grows, the clerks with their paper degrees waving in the breeze, are satisfied to collect their salaries and lack even the basic educated skills of building a nation. We don´t need any more educated clerks, we need people with skills. The question is: WHERE and HOW are we going to get them?

Like the Japanese after World War 2, Belizeans we have found are great copycats. Show them how to make money by example, and within 18 months new businesses spring up faster than weeds in an empty lot. There are a lot of critics in our new society. Most all of them want a salaried job as a CLERK with the government bureaucracy, or if you are; a has been lawyer, to become a politician and go on the tax revenue, pig trough, payroll.

The challenges facing Belizean society are there. The solutions are more or less known, but it is not by any education system outside of the ITVET community colleges, that we will find the answers. The INTERNET has been a game changer, yet we so far, are not capitalizing on the opportunities enough. The Universities have proved useless. The ITVET Community college model, while a successful model, works on a DEMAND EDUCATION basis. Given a class of 10 paying students you have a training course. This is education by historical precedent. You cannot go and predict the future from historical precedents. Students will gravitate to what they know is already working. Unfortunately the game changer for Belize is a path yet untrodden, the solutions and skills unlearned. The future is based on new skills. HOW WE DO THAT, WILL DICTATE THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF OUR NATION AND ECONOMY over the next 20 years.

Ray Auxillou, Western Belize Happenings