The Ministry of Education launched its annual Education Showcase in Belize City. Executive member representing the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU), Adelaida Guerra, spoke to the contributions of Belizean teachers to national development and the role of parents in advancing education but also used the opportunity to issue several demands to Minister of Education Patrick Faber on several key issues of concern for the Union. Guerra contended that the Ministry has been acting rather dictatorially in its view in what is supposed to be a consultative process for changes to the Education and Training Act and subsidiary rules.
“The BNTU continues to raise the concern that the Ministry of Education seems to want to have total control and only does proper consultation with other stakeholders when it is convenient to them. This is defiantly not the best procedure to undertake to improve and reform our educational system. In keeping with the theme, we call on our parents to play a more active role in assisting the educational institutions by making sure that their children not only attend school regularly, but encourage them to do their best. Our parents needs to instill in our youths moral values, proper attitudes, respect for law and order, civic pride, love of country and the importance education if they are to be valuable contributors to our Belizean society.”
Guerra also called for high school teachers whose schools receive aid to be paid their salaries and benefits and for the appointment of a chair for the Teaching Services Commission, as well as implementation of a program of teaching civic pride and love of nation by including the Belize Constitution in the curriculum. We will have the Minister’s response shortly, but first he discusses the selected theme for the event, created by students of Ocean Academy on the island of Caye Caulker, “Our Youth: Innovators Today, Change Makers Tomorrow.” While it is an innovative nod to the power of education to create change, Minister Faber told us that the work of change starts with caring adults who lead by example
Hon. Patrick Faber – Minister of Education
“I think it is very accurate in that indeed our young people are very innovative and indeed we want them to be change makers for tomorrow. But I wanted to dispel the notion of today and tomorrow. Everything that has to do with our young people, in my opinion, is an emergency given the percentage of the population that they represent. I didn’t want people to get carried away with the theme to think that we should be working on our young people for the sake of tomorrow. My message to the gathering today was more in line with… those stakeholders, other than the students , understand that it is important for them to encourage those students, those young people who are innovative today, but also to lead that innovation so that it continues and to lead the change, that they themselves in the education sector must be change makers today so that that can be an example so that our young people can be change makers tomorrow. Not as a first of, but as a continuation of what we do as the \adult stakeholders in the game today.”
In responding to the BNTU the Minister told us that while there are still many problems, there has been progress made. He points to the many new school buildings raised and opportunities for training of teachers at all levels among other things, with assistance from many international and local partners. Faber told us afterward that with the Education Sector Strategy in place that establishes an idea of what has gone wrong, he is focused on making things right, and that does not involve casting blame.
Hon. Patrick Faber
“I do understand that the Unions right to speak out on issues. In fact, some the the issues that they spoke on is out of the pay grade of the Ministry of Education. It has to go to the Minister of Finance, to the wider Government of Belize but I understand that that is their role. Every opportunity that they have to point that out, they do so. I applaud them for doing so, but it does not have to be an antagonistic relationship. I believe your point can be made without starting a quarrel, without calling names. That is the kind of leadership I wish to provide to our education sector and that is why I responded in the way I responded his morning.”
Activities for the showcase last throughout the month of May and also include the annual teachers’ awards ceremonies.