Prime Minister John Briceno was out of the country on official government business for almost a month. On Tuesday, in the first Cabinet meeting that he chaired after returning, some significant policy matters were under discussion.
We start first on a decision from Cabinet to raise the mandatory minimum age that all Belizean students must remain in school.
In today's press release, the government said, quote, "Cabinet was updated on initiatives being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology and enthusiastically supported a proposal to increase the age of compulsory education from 14 to 16, recognizing that while this change will lead to other legislative and policy changes, it is a critical move to help to prepare Belizean students for life." End quote.
This morning, we got an opportunity to speak with the Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Stuart Leslie on a number of topics coming out of Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. Here's what he had to say on the change of the age of compulsory education from 14 to 16:
Ambassador Stuart Leslie - Cabinet Secretary
"It's an exciting thing that is happening. It's in its initial stage, yes. Minister Fonseca yesterday represented, after broad consultations with people and stakeholders in the education sector, and so on - and looking at again this whole of government approach guys. We have kids who are 14 years old, who have been kicked out of school, are not in school and are out in the streets, and so on. They are being lured by gangs and getting into things that they shouldn't be getting into at that age in their lives. So the idea of this is for us to do something that is in line with the human rights of the child, Isani. But to bring young people, and say, you cannot leave school until you are 16 years old. It's it is at the beginning stage because, you know, it's going to cost some money. It's going to be -Minister Fonseca is estimating maybe as we look at the expansion of this program in terms of about 10,000 more young people in school across the country for an additional two years. So all that has to be worked out and they're working at it over time. But thank you for that question, because it's an exciting thing. And I hope that everybody will join in supporting this initiative to move the age for you to leave school in the country from 14 to 16."