The "It's Time... Time to read" literacy programme is one of the flagship initiatives of RESTORE Belize and it is now up and running in its first summer camp. Today Monica Bodden visited to find out more:
Monica Bodden reporting
Itís called "Itís Time... Time to Read" - a public education campaign launched by Restore Belize.
Mary Vasquez - Director, Restore Belize
"Literacy has been identified as one of the core needs since Resore Belize just began. In all our stakeholder meetings, the school drop outs, the fact that students are graduating from Primary School and not being fully literate and the fact that people are going for job training and they are not literate - so even when we take someone who is a High School dropout and try to put them in a training programme; if they don't have the basic literacy and numeracy - they still won't be equipped to compete in the work place and they still won't be equipped really to manage their own finances and their own lives suitably. Another big thing that comes up is that when they have children they are not able to create a family environment that is conducive to literacy and academic work. Some of our young people have mentioned that when they became interested in literacy it is when they realized that as a father - they would not be able to provide assistance to their children. So we have all of these situations that came to our attention so when we wrote a strategic plan, literacy and success in Primary and Secondary School which is based on literacy competence - those were priority strategic actions for us. So we approached the Embassy of China/Taiwan with a proposal for computers, as well as self taught literacy and numeracy programmes."
The Embassy of Taiwan responded with a donation of 350,000 Belize dollars to purchase 100 computers along with a national software license for the academy of English and the Academy of Math software sweep.
"We then went about trying to choose which agencies would offer these programmes and that's not easy because a lot of agencies that work with children - there are a lot of agencies that work with young people who are out of school. So we went through a vetting process, we invited certain agencies to apply - of course other agencies heard about it and they said 'hey ask us - we want in too' . So we actually got more applicants than we thought we would and from that we initially chose 8 and subsequently 2 more agencies have approached us. We have given out either computers and/or software to ten agencies and those are all agencies that deal with populations that have very limited access to educational support outside of school. We know that people from all walks of life have problems with school but we're trying to get the ones that can't afford a private tutor and we're trying to work with agencies that work with these populations. So for us this is a perfect example of how restore Belize seeks to add to the National Solution when we're looking at situations of crime and unemployment violence. We actively go out there and we find resources- then we give it to the people who are working with the communities on the ground, so this is how we ended up with the agencies and we have agencies in different neighborhood - we also have KOLBE Foundation and the Youth Hostel which has licenses, they have computer and software licenses. We are very happy that we get to offer the summer programme because then it's a time for children to catch up in between academic years so this year with the help of the Atlantic Group of companies - we were able to pay the fees at Water Walkers Training Center and UBAD Educational Foundation. In addition to that the YMCA also found their own funding to their own Summer Programme based on the literacy."
And although the program will be accessible to the general public way beyond summer, ITís Time Summer Camps has had the participation of numerous students of all ages. Today Ambassador David Wu was taken on a tour to 3 of the 8 sites for a firsthand experience of the programís success.
H.E. David C. K. Wu - Taiwanese Ambassador to Belize
"Today we are arranged by Restore Belize in our office and to view three locations where the computers that we had donated were used. I was very impressed by the way they use these computers to teach the children to reduce illiteracy. It's very important to them not only to learn the reading skill but also to build up the confidence and to attract them to work, read and study together - I think this is a very good way for them to change their lives in the future. The embassy of Taiwan/China is very pleased that we can be a part of it- we hope that in the future that we can continue to collaborate with Restore Belize's office and to donate more computers and also the software."
Ambassador Wu spoke with the youngsters about the program to get their individual views. So far, it has all been positive.
H.E. David C. K. Wu
"They all enjoy it - that's very important, only when they enjoy the programme - that can attract them to come again and again. I think they are learning something through playing games and I think that in our software programme is very important - we need more of those kinds of teaching programmes; through playing they are learning something. I think reading skills is very important for them for their future because only when they can do better for the reading - they can get access to the real world, to the knowledge and advance their knowledge and the technology. They will be, I think, very important resources to build this country - working together to change the future of Belize."
This morning we had the opportunity to stop by the UBAD library - to see just how the software works.
Audley Mulati - Program Coordinator, UBAD Library
"Right now we have a summer programme going on for four weeks - it's objective is to show case the programme to let the public know about the programme. This is a new initiative, a computer assistant - I don't think we've had these kinds of programmes before in Belize and the fact that it's here gives a boost to most of the sites that are focused towards educational initiatives. Right now we have students enrolled and these students have to carry out a pre-test before getting into the system and before starting the actual training. We already have the students doing the pre-test and they're already into the training programme and so I should say they are progressing pretty much well. The objective and the aim of the programme is basically to help students that are struggling with their reading and math skills. Remember it's a numeracy software as well so the programme helps students that are lagging behind in school and to better their skills in math and reading. It also bridges the gap of the students that are already advanced and those that are lagging behind - so basically I would say that it's a boost for students that are struggling in school pertaining to their reading and math skills."
The summer programme is being run at we the UBAD Educational Foundation Library, YMCA, Water Walkers, Eglah's Training Center, NARCIE, Port Loyola Library, Youth Hostel, and Kolbe Foundation.