New District Education Officer to improve SP education standards
Monday, March 7th, 2016
Education is a key element in the development and well-being of a community and country. Therefore, having well trained and experienced senior education officers adds tremendously to the development of our young generation. San Pedro Town and Caye Caulker have been placed under the watchful eye of District Education Officer, Nelma Jones, who has been addressing the issues at schools on the islands. It is expected that with her vast expertise in the educational sector, both islands will benefit immensely.
Jones came to the cayes as a long standing educator with over thirty years of experience working in the field of education. Her experience in the educational field extends from primary and secondary levels up to the Ministry of Education. Jones also indicated that she was an adjunct lecturer for the University of the West Indies, St. John’s Junior College, and even the University of Belize.
Moreover, she indicated that her vast wealth of experience in the education field has given her a good background in curriculum planning and teacher training, whereas in the social sector, she is well acquainted with child protection laws.
Jones received training to be a primary school teacher and then made her way up through the education system that existed in Belize’s old schooling days. Her perseverance to obtain a higher education degree led her to the University of North Florida in the United States, where she obtained a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership. According to Jones, this institution is very supportive to Belizean educators who seek to further their education at the post-graduate level.
Since her arrival in San Pedro, Jones has experienced challenges in assisting with the many issues the local educational institutions are dealing with. “There are major issues which are not just happening on Ambergris Caye, but also in other parts of the country,” she said, “The cases of students being rebellious and getting in to trouble at school, is a situation we need to deal with, without blaming anyone.”
The main excuse that educators always use, said Jones, is that parents are failing to educate their children at home. She indicated that not all responsibility falls on the parents when the school is actually the second parent. “The school needs to be able to fill that gap, which is to pay attention to the social and emotional development of those students that they have in the classrooms,” said Jones. She emphasized that it is doable since the students spend more time with the teachers than they do at their home.
According to Jones, one of her priorities is to improve students’ achievement on the island, as well as the social and emotional aspect of the students. “This will allow them to have life skills, to live and to be themselves. It is a major philosophy in education, we don’t just have to provide students with an academic background or concept, but also with skills and attitudes so that they can be productive in their communities,” said Jones.
Jones has been collecting data from the different schools on the island as she prepares to proceed forward. The data that has been collected also reflects the achievements by many of these institutions, especially in the primary level. From these results, the senior educational officer can put interventions and support where needed.
Jones acknowledged the assistance from US Fulbright Scholar, Susan Catapano. Catapano has been very instrumental in the professional development aspect of the various schools on both islands.
“We have been receiving the necessary support from Mrs. Catapano and her University, the University of North Carolina. But I must say that I cannot totally blame our teachers when it comes to issues at the schools. The fact is that the islands have been neglected when it comes to teacher training; it is expensive for teachers to leave the island to get some schooling somewhere else. Teachers need that extra support so they can become better,” elaborated Jones. She ended by indicating that one of the main things that affect San Pedro schools is that good teachers do not stay long on the island. This is due to the high cost of living conditions. Thus, she believes that the community should help in order to keep them on the island.
Jones hopes that her skills and experience will prove helpful in improving the educational standards on the islands. At the same time, in trying to solve some of the many problems that exist in the schools, the entire community is asked to assist.
The District Education Office is located in the lower flat of the Alijua building, and Jones can be contacted at telephone number 226-4742.
The San Pedro Sun joins the community in extending a warm welcome to Nelma Jones, and wishes her the best in her tenure on the island.
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