Phase 2 in Education Reform Calls For 35 New Schools for Belize

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Updated: January 27, 2016

January 2013 saw the launch of the first phase of the Belize Education Sector Reform Project with a budget of two million US dollars provided by the Caribbean Development Bank.  Under phase one several activities were undertaken including the strengthening of policies with the objective of building upon and improving the education sector’s regulatory Framework, school management and leadership, rationalisation and diversification of the secondary curriculum among other areas.  Two years later, the Ministry of Education is embarking on the second phase of the reform initiative with an official launch conducted today inside the Riverhall Room at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City.  Education Minister, Patrick Faber delivered the keynote address and spoke of 35 new schools being established around the country under this part of the project.  Minister Faber also told the media that despite the start of the second phase, certain undertakings from phase one will continue.

PATRICK FABER: In phase one of the projects building the regulatory frameworks, strengthening that capacity, working on quality assurance all of that has been executed, it continues to go so that we know that things are happening besides the infrastructure work. We believe in getting our children to start strong and on a strong foundation so I believe our school children will benefit primarily and we believe that once they get that benefit that it multiplies because they get then an opportunity at going on to primary and secondary even. The studies have shown that starting strong really makes a difference in what they become later on in life but as the numbers show as well we also have primary schools in some very remote areas, some of them are rural areas and you heard me mention  Gungulung just now, that is a very impoverished area of Belize City so the beneficiaries we believe will be by and large, poor struggling families who are struggling to find a school in their area of the country that will provide good quality education and the fact that the project also puts in place infrastructure materials and equipment these will be state of the art facilities that is not a full guarantee for quality education but is a step in the forward direction.”

Minister Faber has been known to lobby for amalgamation of schools with the idea of not wasting resources.  With talks of 35 new schools being installed around the country, it would lead one to think that the minister is being contradictory.  Faber, however, assures us that that is not the case.

PATRICK FABER: What we’ve always maintained is that amalgamation is not necessarily geared towards only cutting the number of schools, it is to put good quality proper schools in areas of the country where there is the need and so we continue to urge the existing schools that may be serving in an area where there is an abundance of opportunities. Like a village that has three or four schools but only has the population for one school we urge them to come together and if you notice none of that is being touched. We are looking at these areas where there is an under service in terms of the education services to the students who are in need and that is where we are putting the schools. It all works well together, there is still room for partners where we have identified that amalgamation is important to come on board, there is still room for that and we still continue to go after that kind of policy in our Ministry very aggressively. We believe in getting our children to start strong and on a strong foundation so I believe our school children will benefit primarily and we believe that once they get that benefit that it multiplies because they get then an opportunity at going on to primary and secondary even. The studies have shown that starting strong really makes a difference in what they become later on in life but as the numbers show as well we also have primary schools in some very remote areas, some of them are rural areas and you heard me mention  Gungulung just now, that is a very impoverished area of Belize City so the beneficiaries we believe will be by and large, poor struggling families who are struggling to find a school in their area of the country that will provide good quality education and the fact that the project also puts in place infrastructure materials and equipment these will be state of the art facilities that is not a full guarantee for quality education but is a step in the forward direction.”

As it pertains to the management of these new schools, the Ministry of Education will be extending an invitation for partnership to the various church management authorities.  In other words, not all the schools will be Government operated.

PATRICK FABER: “The schools will be built on government land and that the infrastructure will be the property of the government but that we are wide open to engage our church partners in forming management agreements for some of these schools where it is identified that that is possible. There would be some areas that we may say that government management of a school is best and we will do that but we are not in any was breaking up the church state system and we are encouraging our denominational partners to sit with us to work out a proper management plan if they are to manage any of these 35 schools and the infrastructure will belong to the government so that the onus of maintaining the school buildings and so on will then become of the issue of the government primarily.”

Phase two of the project, once again, with financing from the Caribbean Development Bank will see the establishment of thirty five additional schools in strategic locations around the country.  As we mentioned, this launch comes as part of the Education Sector Strategy aimed at enhancing the educational development of the country.