Commentary: Black students in Belize score lower in primary school examinations

By Wellington C. Ramos

In examining a document released by the Belize Ministry of Education titled "Improving Access, Quality and Governance of Education In Belize" Education Sector Strategy 2011-2016, it was revealed that the districts of Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo, where most of the blacks live in the country of Belize, scored the lowest on their Primary School Examinations (PSE) compared to the other districts where most Mestizo and Maya Belizeans live.

This examination is important for students who are planning to further their education in high schools in Belize. Also, that throughout the entire country of Belize, the people who live in the urban communities scored higher than the students who live in the rural areas.

The results are as follows; Belize-Urban: 56.0% Rural: 52.7%, Toledo-Urban: 54.5% Rural: 53.0%, Stann Creek-Urban: 54.1% Rural: 53.0% Orange Walk-Urban: 62.6% Rural: 56.0%, Corozal-Urban: 61.4% Rural: 56.2% and Cayo-60.6% Rural: 53.0%. The National was, Urban: 58.4% Rural: 54.1%. This is a complete reversal from many years ago where the black districts scored better or even with the other districts. The districts of Stann Creek and Toledo, where most Garifuna people live, did the worst and at one time in Belize's history they were the teachers who went into the villages all over the country of Belize to educate their fellow Belizean brothers and sisters.

I observed that the teachers who were assigned to teach in Corozal District, two-thirds of them were trained compared to Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, where only one-third received training. This report did not provide any other statistical information as to what other factors may have led to this dilemma, such as family makeup, income, poverty, gangs, crime, government expenditures per student in the districts, educational equipment, materials, tutoring, socioeconomic backgrounds and curriculum instruction.

This situation warrants immediate attention by the government of Belize especially for the south.

Belize does not want to give the world the impression that we have a two tier educational system -- one for blacks and another for the other ethnic groups in Belize. I am inclined to believe that the socio-economic conditions blacks live under in Belize, have had a negative impact on their children to focus on their academics. Many poor families in Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts are unemployed and do not have the funds to support their children with their basic necessities of life. Much less, to find money to buy books, pay tuitions and provide other resources that their children need to complete elementary school. If the government does not correct this problem in Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, then they will not be able to improve the national average.

I call on all the black Belizeans who live in the United States and abroad to access this report which is available on the website to see how they can help to turn these numbers around. Blacks will not be able to compete with the other ethnic groups for employment if they are the least educated in the country. Socially, they will be looked down upon, also because people tend to look up to the educated people in their societies.

The Minister of Education Patrick Faber is black and he has a commitment to educate all Belizeans and this will be one of his biggest challenges in this new term. The solution is to look at all the possible factors that may have led to this situation and then create an education strategy that will improve the academic standing of blacks in Belize, Stann Creek, Toledo and the rest of the country.

The test results for blacks who live in the other districts should also be analyzed to make sure that they are given equal access to curriculum instructions in those communities.