Rotary Clubs Enhance Education in Belize District Schools

Rotary Clubs Enhance Education in Belize District Schools

The Rotary Club of Belize is teaming up with the Rotary Club of Port Moody, in British Columbia Canada, to enhance education in eleven target schools in the Belize District. Through a collaboration with funding from the Rotary Global Grant computer labs will be set up in the schools for them to access websites within the Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning (RACHEL) software. The project seeks to combat education loss incurred by students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Principals and teachers from the target schools have begun attending workshops on using the software. Today Glen Brown from the Rotary Club of Port Moody, and Katherine Meighan, President of the Rotary Club of Belize, explained the collaboration between the clubs and the Ministry of Education, and how the project will impact the lives of students.

Glen Brown, Member, Rotary Club Port Moody: “First of all it’s essentially an offline server so it brings the internet to a place where maybe there’s no internet. And in addition to that content it has applications that support learning like learning management systems that help teachers organize lesson plans in the classroom. So a major focus of Rotary is literacy and Rachel has content that really focuses on gains in literacy and basic education but it does a couple of other things. It introduces educational technology and helps develop digital literacy in the classroom and it also works with students in terms of more modern approaches to learning. When we think about 21st Century learning which emphasizes things like creativity, inquiry, consultation, communication, collaboration, team work these are really different ways of learning than what happened twenty years ago. The infrastructure is actually relatively simple. Rachel servers themselves are relatively inexpensive, they’re about $500 US and they will support twenty or thirty a classroom full of Chromebooks. So for a classroom we’re providing the Rachel server, twenty or thirty Chromebooks and some of the ancillary equipment that they might need.”

Katherine Meighan, President, Rotary Club of Belize: “So it’s not only textbooks it’s also the applications that are there. One really cool example is we had a pilot project with St.Martin De Porres and one of the kids from St.Martis De Porres actually learned how to build a robot from one of the applications that they were able to utilize and there’s a digital angle too because we also offer on the program coding and we know how important technology and the interest in technology and science and math and literature all is and to be able to have these devices that can constantly be updated in terms of the type of curriculum it really opens the horizons so much bigger because it’s not limited to what that textbook has the sky is the limit in essence. This is really a partnership. This is a partnership between the Ministry of Education so we collaborated with the Ministry to be able to identify the schools most in need because that’s always the question how do we narrow down, how do we select ? In this case we were able to be able to get funding and this is a nice project. It’s $210,000 Belize dollars in value and that includes the devices and Chromebooks, headsets and also some additional tools and support for the schools themselves. That’s gonna be given out over the next few weeks and months but ultimately we worked with the ministry to be able to identify schools. We identified some in Belize Rural and we also identified some in Belize City as well.”

We also spoke with Ardeth Kelly, Principal of Belize Rural Primary School and Janeen St. Barnard, Principal of Lucky Strike Government School about their experiences in the training and how it will change the way learning happens in their respective schools. 

Ardeth Kelly, Principal, Belize Rural Primary School: “The training is introducing us to the Rachel program and it’s teaching us how to maneuver the program and the resources that they have so that we can take it back and introduce it to our teachers and so that they can use it in teaching and learning and lesson planning. I am excited to take it back to our school because I know, I’m confident, that it will enhance learning in the classroom. There are areas with literacy and numeracy that the resources that are provided by this program it’s various there are various resources that can be used in math, language arts, science, Belizean studies, all subject areas.”

Janeen St.Barnard, Principal, Lucky Strike Government School: “I am really excited to take this program back to our school because it coincides with the curriculum that we are presently using. For example one of the things that stood out here for us over the past two days is the problem based learning. It is something that we have been doing but Rachel will allow us to give our children more exposure to material that they can utilize on their own, let them explore, let them see things for themselves without being afraid of them going on the internet or having any restrictions.”

They include Biscayne Government Primary School, Belize Rural Primary, Lucky Strike Government Primary School, St. Agnes Anglican Primary, Crooked Tree Government Primary School, Unity Presbyterian School, Salvation Army, St. Luke Primary School, St. Ignatius RC School, St. John Anglican Primary School, and Stella Maris School. Meighan added that Stella Maris was a special addition to the list and that the school was originally founded by Rotarians./////

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