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Principals discuss their plans for home-based learning

Belize is not alone in trying to make the best of the global crisis being faced.  In the education sector, classes have been cancelled since March 20 and teachers quickly worked at adapting a home-based learning method. 

Belize is not alone in trying to make the best of the global crisis being faced.  In the education sector, classes have been cancelled since March 20 and teachers quickly worked at adapting a home-based learning method.  It is hard to say when schools will reopen and with this uncertainty schools across the country have had to think outside the box to ensure that students were still being engaged. Today, Love News spoke with three principals to get insights into how they have been coping. Omar Longsworth, the principal of Independence High School, Stann Creek District, stated that one of their major issues is that students are not completing the assignments given to them.

Omar Longsworth, Principal, Independence High School: “Well what we initially when we had the close on the 20th of March we were already working a system where we were using what we call the EDMODO platform and so students we already had students hooked up to that platform and so once they had internet access they were able to work with teachers on line so we were practicing this since August of last year. The issue with that is because there was not a lock down students were able to go to internet cafes and friend’s houses and so on to get access for those that didn’t have personal internet. With this situation now however that made it a little more challenging because these students aren’t able to go to internet cafes and so anymore so basically we were able to get only 50% response rate from students with respect to online work. So what we decided to do was to prepare hard copies of content, whatever content for the different subject areas and for this second two weeks starting on Monday what we’re going to do is prepare packages for students and then we will be delivering these packages to different communities so that students be able to access them and so they will be able to keep up to date with content and then there will be activities that they would have to complete over the course of the time that they’re at home. Then they would be able to, where possible, those students would be able to send use Whatsapp or something of the sort to be able to get the results back to teachers. Those that do have access to internet they are encouraged to continue to use that facility to get to teachers. So far our response rate is only a little under 50% and so it’s difficult to determine that. There are some of  them who have been working there are others who have not been making responses I guess probably because of where they are.”

Up north, La Inmaculada RC School in Orange Walk Town is well ahead in their plans as they are fully prepared for the distance learning now required.  The principal, Lenny Umana, stated that the teachers will distribute packages and have gotten clearance from relevant authorities to do so on Monday.

Lenny Umana, Principal, La Inmaculada RC School: “So when we visited the site of the ministry it was excellent but I felt or our administration felt in a way that we could do a little bit more to basically target La Inmaculada School. So we decided to engage our first cycle for third term because we had already prepared those cycles, unfortunately we met the pandemic so we decided to put in on pause. So what we have done now is we’re going to initiate our first cycle which is new material from third term because we want to springboard children into whatever comes next. So on Monday , right now our teachers are on planning mode they’re preparing activities, parent guides as to how to proceed to teach certain topics. We’re also sending notes on new topics and activities for children to be able to do so that when school reopens they at least have a familiarity to what is expected from them and of course we’re going to complement that with revision as well. Now the biggest problem that our school is very large, a population of a thousand students so we spoke to the Ministry of Education and I’m glad Ms. Jones gave us the green light and the support and she has channeled us to meet with Mr.Bernard our Mayor to assist us with the traffic department, the police department has come on board as well because on Friday our staff is meeting to compile packages that entail our first two cycles so we’re not back and forth with parents which is a four week plan and we’re going to distribute these packages on Monday from ten o’clock in the morning until eleven thirty and I am very glad that the teachers were on board they were like ‘we were waiting for this plan.’, our administration is stepping in. We have a school app that we use to guide parents but we cannot count that all our thousand children have access to technology, that is why we need to prepare the hard copies of the packages and all parents all parents in our school get a hard copy.”

Elisa Seguro, the principal of Nazarene High School in Belize City, stated that they have done online work and have assisted those who did not have access to the internet. However, they are now working closely with just the fourth formers and are awaiting the response from a meeting with the Principal’s Association.

Elisa Seguara, Principal, Nazarene High School: “Prior to school closing we had done a survey with students and we were able to identify those students that didn’t have internet access and we have been providing data or credit to them so that they could purchase data and only one student needed a device we just provided him with a tablet. The last two week in March we were using laptops to communicate with them during the day and they had also taken home their worksheets so they were able to work from hard copies and the Whatsapp was used by the teacher for clarification purposes or encouragement and so on first, second and third actually fourth as well that way the last part of March, the last two weeks before the Easter break. But from since the 20th of April we have only resumed classes for fourth form, like I said we are waiting to see if this lock down will be lifted and also waiting on the Association of Principals for us to make one decisive move. The students – the platform allows the student to communicate just as Whatsapp does and so the teachers are meeting with them and they’re getting feedback, I am also a part of each class just as an overseer to see what’s going on in terms of communication between students and the teachers. So far they really seem excited and they’re working. We’ve given the parents the school cell number so they’d be able to call or text us if they have any challenges so far we haven’t heard from any one of them.”

All three principals expressed confidence that students will still be able to progress in their education with the packages provided to them.