Back to School!

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 36            September 13, 2007

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Where are the textbooks?

Tuesday, September 11th, marked the first day of classes since being postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Felix a week ago. Students lined up, eager to begin their new year. In their backpacks were their exercise books and nothing more, their textbooks were to be handed over to them and their parents that very day. However, that did not happen.

    The Government of Belize’s newest initiative was to provide free textbooks to all children in government run or government assisted schools. As was mentioned in our previous article New “Free” textbooks dated August 30th, 2007, Government would provide all textbooks and workbooks needed for the 2007-08 curriculum. Set to arrive, prior to the schools’ opening their doors, delays have been many and not far in between. Speaking via telephone with the new Education District Manager for Belize, Jahmor Lopez, The San Pedro Sun found out that the process, described as ‘tedious and time consuming’, has had a few hitches along the way. “Between Hurricane Dean, the flooding and then Felix, getting the textbooks processed has taken longer than initially anticipated,” he commented.

    As mentioned before, processing of the books includes stamping them with a number, the name of the school and student, for accountability purposes, prior to the books arriving in San Pedro Town, and the rest of the country. Aside from Mother Nature, the Department of Education has also had other problems, such as, space constraints. With containers filled up with books, space is needed and working out of an auditorium limits the amount of space available. “This is a new procedure. We are learning as we go by since this is all quite new,” commented Lopez. A barge company has been hired to deliver the text/workbooks to San Pedro. The barge is set to leave on Friday and school children are expected to have their books on Monday. Each child will receive five textbooks; one book for each subject plus a workbook for those subject areas which include them. According to officials, the workbooks are not expected to be returned, however the textbooks MUST be returned at the end of the school year. A system has been put in place where the teachers will collect the books and periodically access the inventory and condition of each book. Once students get their books, all parents will have to sign a contract which is a basic lease for the books – meaning that if your child loses or damages a book you, the parent, will have to pay for it.

    Schools under this program include private schools that are Government grant aided.

Classes resume for the new school year in San Pedro

The energy and anticipation could be sensed among the children on Tuesday.

Holy Cross kids learn about good hygiene.

Young RC Students line up for classes.

Amir Marin goes back for his second year of pre-school, while his cousin Sylvanie is too excited for her first year!
The school year is in full swing at campuses across the Belize, a sometimes bittersweet shift for students and parents alike. Early Tuesday morning, streets and schoolyards were filled with parents accompanying their children on their first day back after a long summer holiday. While it was clear that some of the students were excited to be back, that definitely wasn’t the situation in every case, as some of the smaller children entering pre-school did not want to let go of their parents’ hands. The Sun caught up with School Nurse/Counselor, Glenda Rancharan, for a tour of the newly expanded Holy Cross Anglican School and got a glimpse of the fully equipped structure that will house over 450 kids in style. The smiling youngsters resplendent in new school uniforms were looking forward to beginning their new term.

    At school, their first day was spent learning the pathways to new classes in their school, as over the summer the Holy Cross added nine (9) extra classrooms to accommodate some 465 kids. The newly built classrooms now house Standard Three, Four, Five and Six grade students. This means that Standard Six students at Holy Cross will be eligible to sit the Primary School Examination, (PSE) next year.

    Holy Cross has now transformed into a fully operational educational facility including its own health outpost, a brand new cafeteria, nine extra classes, and space for a dental outpost. Holy Cross currently boasts 14 teachers in the primary division, a principal, assistant principal, and two teachers in the Special Education unit, school nurse/counselor, office manager and a book keeper. A head count on the overall elementary capacity across the island shows the San Pedro Roman Catholic School carrying the highest population of students (930 kids, 38 teachers), Holy Cross (463 kids, 14 teachers) New Horizon’s Academy (200 kids, nine teachers), Isla Bonita Elementary (101 kids, nine teachers), Ambergris Elementary (70 students, eight teachers), St. Peter’s Elementary (60 kids, five teachers) Island Academy (Private- 90- kids, eight teachers). That brings the student population in primary schools on the island to over one thousand four hundred. As the kids go back to bell schedules and homework assignments, the school year for most is looking promising and a lot less stressful due to the textbook program.
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