Belize’s Senators were in session today in Belmopan debating various Bills brought forward from Wednesday’s Sitting of the House of Representatives. The session began at ten o’clock this morning and the primary focus for about two hours was the Education Bill. The Education Bill seeks to get the approval of the Senate for a ten million US dollar loan from the InterAmerican Development Bank. Education Minister Patrick Faber explained in Wednesday’s sitting that the loan seeks to build the capacity of teachers and to also install a state-of-the-art STEAM Lab. STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. President of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), Senator Elena Smith, presented her views this morning, saying that while she is all for the upliftment of teachers, more information is needed in order to make an informed decision.
Elena Smith, Senator: “I’m wondering whether it is that we are putting the cart before the horse because while our teachers yes were given some sort of training to be able to assist our students who received these computers for them to work with we are just now looking at putting in place a lab school to train our teachers. Again, don’t get me wrong, training is quite important for our teachers and we do realize that as a country we are not too into technology as we ought to be. I’m going to be one of the first to acknowledge and to agree with that but I do think Mr.President that when these things come before us, as we have been saying over and over again and it’s easy to say to us “You can always request information and it will be given to you.” that is not always so. Sometimes we request and we don’t get or we get at the appointed time and so we are unable then to do proper review to make proper representations in this house. Again we are looking at evaluation by collecting and analyzing information, that is a key area because a lot of times we put forth these projects but we don’t proper evaluate to see how beneficial these projects are and what we’ve achieved at the end of these things and so we are borrowing monies again. We keep seeing that we are borrowing and borrowing and borrowing. Who will be responsible at the end of the day ?”
Other senators voiced their opinion on this loan, many of them citing issues they found with it. Senator for the business sector, Mark Lizarraga, focused his presentation on the output and the inability to measure the outcomes of the first phase.
Mark Lizarraga, Senator: “It is a fact as both speakers said before me that we’re not too happy with the results and we’re going to support any initiative including this one that would lend to give us and I quote “evaluation by collecting and analyzing information about activities, characteristics and outcomes.” but this first thing was promised in the first loan motion, in the first $20 million and we have not seen that and I endorse fully what you said Senator Zabaneh, one would have hoped for us to have gotten those details to say “Look, these are the results of the first investment. This is what we expect to get from the second investment.”
Dr.Carla Barnett, Senator: “The EQIP 1 is a project that was signed in 2014, that’s like five years ago and it’s under implementation for the last five years so all of the training that was done we’re really only at that stage of measuring the outputs in terms of the activities that were undertaken. We would expect to see the outcomes in the numbers that will be coming once the impact of those teachers trained on the children and if it is that we don’t see the impact then we will have to say so. But it is a little early certainly from the development practitional point of view from the impact to be felt in that measurable way.”
Michele Chebat, Senator: “I wonder if Senator Salazar has seen the results of the PSE where each year we see progressively that student’s performance is going down, down, down. We have no difficulty in ventures that are progressive, that would promote education in this county, that would promote teacher training and so forth but we are saying let us look at the fundamental basis of what is happening in education.”
Despite objects to the loan, it has already been passed in the House and thus will be used by GOB for its intended purpose.