The Most Reverend Archbishop Leon Kalenga Badikebele of the Roman Catholic Church is in Belize where he has been meeting with the Belize’s Catholic Bishop, Dorrick Wright as well as the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow. While the Archbishop Badikebele told the media today that it is not unusual for him to come to Belize since he does have responsibility for this region, we did ask him to weigh in on the current industrial action by the teachers that have the students out of the classroom.
“I have to look after the children that is the future. Where is the place of the children ? The school that is where I want all my kids, boys and girls at school. Now if you have a problem as it can happen in all the countries, I prefer the big people to deal with that, to negotiate, to pass their time in talking. Teachers are good for talking and teaching and they have to go to I prefer the opposition party to go to the government to make up their minds, for civil society to go to them, I don’t want the children to enter in this problem. I want to see all the Catholic Children at school then we will speak. I don’t know what is the position on the matter but I prefer children to be at school, that is the future of our country. If we are playing around with children we are killing them. As I want also that religion be taught in the schools, all the schools no matter what. No values, no future. We want a good and responsible tomorrow, honesty in the society. Let us keep children in school to learn that is the position of the parent’s household.”
The media asked the Archbishop what happens if there is a difference in views regarding the participation of the Catholic schools in the strike; in response the Archbishop says he will wait to be briefed on the issues but did stress on his subscription to the principles of having children in the classrooms.
“I have my Bishop in charge. I cannot take their place. I am in to listen to them, to see how schools are working, how the churches are working as the old Bishop is working. There is no differences in the Catholic churches we have now. But let the children go to school and that is the official of the country and learn religion and all the values.”
“Is that something that you will be relaying to the Bishop to have the Catholic Schools and have the children attend schools?”
“I do not know what is the issue now but I have these principles from my mother and grandmother. Children at school that is the place where they are happy and have to learn so that tomorrow we have good citizen. If you leave them outside, at home or in the fields you know what is going to happen tomorrow then we will blaming the Catholic Church and saying we are not giving a good education. Belize is still a good place to live, I tell you the truth, we met all the nuncios and everybody was talking about how difficult it is today. This is a land where we have good people, with good intentions. We may face problems it is human but I ask all the parties to come together for the good future of this country.”
Archbishop Badikebele went on to say that while the issues of corruption and good governance are universal, his question remains as to why the children’s education should be impacted by these demands.
“As I am reading the media now two problem I can see it. Asking to the government a good governance and a problem of corruption which is universal today. Now question to you, where is the problem of children in these two problems? The first problem from years ago was the salary of the teachers, that I can understand because that is touching the teachers giving education to our children but this time these two problems, children have nothing to do with that. I am seeing the Prime Minister and then going back to my Bishops then going back to the church and then we will come out with a position to say what the Catholics in their authority are thinking about. While negotiations are still going, because we are in a democracy and we have to talk all the time about our own problems. We must continue to talk, no violence, no insults but sitting down as good Belizean that is the culture asking questions and receiving answers, that is what I want in this society.”
The Government of Belize issued a release following the Archbishop’s meeting with the Prime Minister. The release echoed just what the Archbishop said in the previous interviews but the four-paragraph document did note, quote, “The Archbishop therefore called for the BNTU to return to the negotiating table with Government and for teachers to return to school. Children should not be punished, the Archbishop said, and issues between the BNTU and Government needed to be worked out through dialogue and not school closure. Prime Minister Barrow welcomed the Archbishop’s, and therefore the Catholic Church’s, position, and repeated Government’s own call for the BNTU to suspend its strike and resume the discussions with GOB on the 3% salary adjustment and the good governance agenda.” End of quote. Archbishop Badikebele was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis as the Apostolic Nuncio to Belize. The 60-year-old Archbishop is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and has served in Hait, Guatemala, Zambia, Brazil, Egypt, Zimbabwe and Japan.