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Belize Students in College of Education and Human Sciences Doctoral Program

The College of Education and Human Sciences is a group of service-minded faculty, staff, students and partners who enhance lives through innovative research, teaching and engagement. With a commitment to diversity and inclusion, the College of Education and Human Sciences advances the land-grant mission by developing socially-responsible lifelong learners and scholars who serve others to enhance the education, health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. A cohort of 18 Belizean professionals is currently participating in a doctoral program in Belize. Love News stopped by one of the classes yesterday and spoke to program officials and Belizean doctoral students. 

Dr. Jenn Sanderz, Program Coordinator: “We needed to come up with a way to build capacity in Belize for Language and Literacy Education. How can we build experts within the country so that Belize has its own cadre of people who have really deep and rich knowledge in Language and Literacy Education and they understand how culture intersects in literacy development and so we thought okay we have to teach. We have to develop teacher educators. We have to help the people who can train the teachers and who can design the professional development. We have to develop a cohort of people who have the depth of knowledge to conduct research within Belize and to really work on policy that’s going to account for all of these sets of knowledge and all of these experiences within the country so we decided that has to be at the doctoral level. That has to be at the PhD level to really get that expertise.”

Dr. Mwarumba Mwavita, Research Professor: “They are conducting research that impacts their places of work. Some of them are teachers. Some of them are working at the policy level so the biggest thing that I see as we’re working with our students is that we are looking at very critical problems that are affecting the students. If it’s in the classroom level or if it’s the training, if it’s affecting the pedagogies or the teaching methods of literacy and writing and also if they are at the policy level, those who are at the ministry level. They are looking at the overarching problems that are looking at the whole country. Problems that they can answer in literacy, in training literacy or training writing so they can answer those questions and the bottom line is to assist the stakeholder and we start with the students.”

Erica Aguilar, Doctoral Student: “We are educators here in Belize and we know what’s happening in our classrooms. We know what’s happening at the primary and the secondary level and we know what’s happening in terms of education at the tertiary level. We also educate student teachers, preservice and in-service teachers, so we found it very important to have people from the University of Belize to join this cohort and initially, while it is something to really ponder, while it’s a journey that requires so much. It is something that as an educator I feel like  I need to empower myself so that I can be more effective in all these levels because I deal with student teachers.”

Ray Lawerence Sr. Doctoral Student: “What we are aiming to do is to teach the child rather than teach to the curriculum. I know the curriculum is important because it provides a guide as to how you’re going to execute the education but we have to recognise that these kids in the classroom are human beings. They come to the classroom with a whole wealth of cultural background knowledge, experiences that we have to allow them to first understand, to accept their identity, to feel special about who they are and then use that rich cultural identity to help to sustain themselves and their families and  think if that model can work in Dangriga it can work anywhere else. Separate from the cultural wealth in Dangriga, you also know that the south seems to be the agricultural base of the country. So again this program teaches the upper students to look around their surroundings, create agency for themselves and use what is around them to make better for themselves and their families.”

Dr. Sheri Vasinda, Literacy Education Professor: “They’re interested in all kinds of things about how to make text more culturally relevant to Belize. How to integrate technology into literacy education so that children are more engaged and or we have access to more resources. So when you talk about how this is critically relevant to Belize, one of the things I’ve sensed from this group overall is the work that they’re doing is bigger than they are. It is always about how I have to learn this. I need to learn this for my country and that’s been such a different perspective than working with doctoral students in the states. I mean the reason we do this work is we’re trying to make the world a better place but I feel it and see it with this group of scholars. They’re so passionate about making Belize better.”