About 100,000 pre and Primary school students have been out of school for almost 6 months, but school started today, distance learning style, and to mark the tentative step, forward the Ministry of Education held a virtual school opening ceremony.

Keynote speaker and Minister of Education Patrick Faber outlined the three priority areas for the school year: Health, Safety, and Student Welfare. Here's more from his address.

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"Welcome students, teachers and parents to this new school year 2020/2021. This will be a unique year marked with blended learning, virtual classrooms and that home learning engagements. The home will be the new classroom. Teachers and parents will partner as education facilitators. Ministry of Education and management will support teachers, students and parents. Together we will ensure that our students have a successful academic school year. I know this will be a school year filled with anxieties, doubts and uncertainties, but I want to assure you that the Ministry of Education will do everything in its power to ensure that students are meaningfully engaged in distance education and that health, safety and students welfare are priorities. Let me share some of the things we are implementing to ensure the success of every student: Students at the preprimary and primary level will have access to free workbooks filled with activities to reinforce the topics thought. Each school will develop a lending library and will give story books to each child with guided questions. The national library service is also making it possible for parents to borrow about 4 books over a 4 week period. We will develop a literacy corner on the Ministry's facebook page. The objective of the literacy corner is to encourage daily reading and writing. Teachers will model how to read to and with your children. We will develop model lessons at various levels with easy to follow research based strategies that parents can use to facilitate learning. Teachers will provide ongoing support to students and parents. School are advised to develop a communication plan with parents. Parents, I employ you to use this channel of communication. The Ministry of Education has dedicated this school year as the year of literacy. Dr. Seuss stated the more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you will go."

"We want to continue to move Belize forward. We want to ensure we are preparing our students for the global community. We want them to embrace their language identities and also become competent communicators in the English language. With that said, each month will be marked with activities focussing on an aspect of literacy such as digital literacy, oral language development, literal, critical and inferential literacy skills. Literacy is all of our business. Again, I wish everyone the best in these uncertain times. I ask that you support your children and create a learning space at home that will be conducive to learning. We are a team and together we can make distance education meaningful. Together we can continue to educate our students. The education of our children matters and it's all our responsibility."

As we told you on Friday the first month of the school year will not involve face to face interactions between students and teachers, but instead, focus on online and paper-based materials to get children up to speed on what they missed during last year's cancelled third term.

Channel 7