Guest editorial submitted by: Golda Swift (M.Ed)
This week’s Theme for Education week is “Together, We Achieve Quality Education for all.” This rolls off good on the tongue, but as we know it takes teacher training, accessibility of financing, cooperation among key stakeholders, and acknowledgement of specific needs in certain locations within our country for this to be achieved.
While the Belizean government has made education one of its priorities, which no doubt is admirable, there is still is a long way to go however. As we take a more in depth look at our Education system, as it relates to our own La Isla Bonita, there are still more areas that need to be established and some that need to be looked at and restructured. As globalization continues and the demand for quality education increases, San Pedro educators need to be equipped in order to embrace such changes.
In this paper, I will seek to touch on a couple educational matters that do need dire attention from those people in key positions. San Pedro has eight primary schools, a mixture of church, state and private, which cater for students between the ages of 5-14 years. While there was an attempt at the Holy Cross Anglican School to meet the needs of Special Education students, at present there is no facility operating on the island to meet the needs of those children who may have moderate to severe disabilities. Developing a Special Education Center for these children attached to one of our primary schools is a realistic way to meet the needs of children who are school aged and have disabilities that may require individualize attention. Carla Valdez, District Education Manager, OW speaks clearly on the topic of Inclusion: “As you know we are in the process of moving toward inclusive education. So, I know that in some of the schools there is that part of sensitization. The special education officers are involved in workshops, in sensitizations, and it’s not only confined to education week or the weeks of celebrations but it is an ongoing process. I think that our goal is that someday we will have inclusive education. We are working towards that but of course that can’t happen overnight.”
It is also reasonable to say, that we are indeed moving towards inclusive education, but at the same time there must be teacher training accessibility and provisions that work simultaneously with this move in education.
This is where my next education concern develops, as there is only one facility on the island that offers an Associate Degree program. However, this institution does not offer any program or courses relating to teacher training. There are many teachers that possess the potential, as well as the ability to obtain higher education training and would benefit from such a program. Presently, higher teacher education on the island is non- existent. In order, for teachers to receive higher education they must be willing to relocate inland, as commuting would not be an option because of the expense it would incur. These education concerns need to be addressed as our focus remains “Together We Achieve Quality Education for all.”
Have a blessed Education Week!
Education Rules signed into law in 2000 states clearly as follows in Section 2 Rule 168 section 1-3: 168. (1) No citizen or permanent resident of Belize shall be refused admission to any school on account of race, ethnicity, language, political affiliation, region of the country of origin, special needs or because of perceived social and economic status.