While various events have been cancelled due to the imminent threat of COVID-19, schools in Belize will also be closed as of Friday evening. Since this is new territory for schools and education officials to venture into, the Ministry of Education held a press conference to iron out some of the details. The Minister, Patrick Faber, explained what is expected of students and parents at this time. He also made note that schools are expected to reopen on April 20.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “During this time of school closure we expect that home based learning will happen and what do we mean by home based learning? We mean that educational activities that students can engage in at home to build on or to retain knowledge and skills will take place and we are stressing that this home based learning is not a replacement for school based learning and the objective at this time is merely to engage students during the two week period of school closure. We have had questions as to whether or not schools can arrange for on site small group student learning activities during the two week period of school closure and the Ministry advises against this so that our instruction is that students should not be required to go to school during the two week period of school closure. The expectation of teachers and schools in regards to home based learning is as follows. The schools are asked to prepare and share with parents a home based learning plan for students which includes suggested topics and activities such as readings and assignments. This is similar to what some schools and teachers normally provide to students over Easter or Christmas breaks to keep them learning while they are away from school. Parents and caregivers are asked to ensure that children spend a part of each day engaged in reading and learning activities that are provided by schools or obtained from other sources. We have asked the Ministry of Education personnel to prepare through QUADS resources that will be lodge don the Ministry’s website or that we have links so that people can go there and make a connection so that our children can spend these two weeks engaged in reading and learning activities.”
Minister Faber also addressed the issue of online schooling, which, to most, may seem like the most viable option. However, Faber stated that children who do not have access to the necessary devices or internet must be taken into consideration as well.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “The question about online learning has also been popping up and we do encourage this where it is possible however we are concerned that where that kind of practice is going to occur that adequate by all students can be assured and in essence to be clear on that you cannot require online learning and some students don’t have access to a device or they don’t have access to the internet. Should there be the need for more extended school closure these options will be revisited of course and we will make a pronouncement at a later time.”
As it relates to teachers, they are not expected to be in schools unless the management of the individual school requires it as a part of ensuring children are still learning during this time. For support staff however, the management will determine whether or not they will be as work. For public servants who work in the school system, they should check with the management of the school concerning their role.