Opposition on the proposed Gender Policy 2013 has picked up steam once again. The original hue and cry for GOB to revise the document dwindled down, following Government’s commitment to suspend the implementation of the policy, until further review. But residents in the north have set out to remind Government that they do not want the doctrine prescribed in the policy employed in schools and they are taking their cause to the doors of the Ministry of Education. On Tuesday, we spoke with President of BelizeCan and member of the Alliance of Minister and Leaders in Belize, Patrick Menzies.
“The first place we started was…we did yesterday at 1:00 p.m. was Corozal and Orange Walk. We have been very careful and very clear. We are not doing protests, we are not doing demonstrations. We are the parents going representatives and to the Education Ministry, giving them a form…we are giving form to them. We don’t have any placards, we are not yelling, we are not doing any of those things. We are going with our standing documents and giving them to them, requesting that they bag off and we track the things that they are trying to pass. So, that’s what we are doing and officially yesterday was the day in the North. It’s just going as parents, individuals to the different offices of the Ministry of Education to request that they would send some sign forms to Belmopan, to the attention of the Prime Minister and Minister Faber. We are only trying to get the attention of the Ministers of Government; that is all we are doing”.
We asked Patrick Menzies about the reception of the folks up in the north and he outlined that support has been so strong that parents have begun to pull their kids out of school.
Patrick Menzies: “I sent in to the Government seventy five signatures; mine was included of concerned parents or family members that are not in support of what the Government is doing. There was over a hundred people, not including the kids and in Corozal was about the same amount. This thing is growing; there was a school that was already closed here in Corozal. The church leadership higher up basically said they do not want to offend the Government, so, they really worked hard on the church members and rebuked them all; and so, some of them brought the kids back, but many of them have not. Their school is basically…I don’t even think it has one third of the students. Paraiso and many of the other schools in the north are headed down that same road where the parents are starting to pull their kids out. The Government does not do something quick, I really believe that within the next few days, we are going to see something never seen before in Belize”.
In fact, confrontation arose when one woman attempted to take her child out of the classroom on Tuesday. Patrick Menzies told us what happened.
Patrick Menzies: “Then, this morning I was asked to speak to a group of parents at the Paraiso Catholic School, and there, after I presented, the parents decided to go immediately and withdraw their kids from the school. When they did, one of the vice principals got very picked off and told the parents something and she said, “Well, you can only stop me with the police. So, they called the police and one of the actual workers at the school, her husband called her and said, send my kids home. When she went to get her kids, they called the police on her and warned her that they would arrest her and take her in; and the police explained to all of us that no one (I’m being very careful here) has authorization to take any kid out of a class once they go into a classroom. They no longer belong to the parents; they are now the responsibility of the school until they leave the school. That blew all of our minds”.
A parent in Paraíso Govt school, explained the reason for actions.
“The police took my information. The Ministry of Education asked why I didn’t send my kids to school and I specifically told them because I don’t want them to pass the law in school. They told me that they will have me arrested if I don’t send my kids to school. Just by what the Ministry of Education did to me, I feel that they already began to take away the authority of my own children. So, if it is happening now, what will happen when the law passes? And that is why I will not send my kids to school. As a matter, they have taken away rights”.
The initiative is expected to migrate to the west in the coming days, where the bold attempt to remove students from the classroom is being anticipated.
Patrick Menzies: “What is next? Well, I can say it now: Tomorrow, we are expecting many people from Armenia, Belmopan, which is Salvapan, Maya Mopan, Las Flores and San Martin, that area to actually go to the Ministry of education because we don/t know where the other parties are to present a signed form from each parent, basically stating: We will not support any official, political official under any capacity that does not respect our constitution; and that we are taking the kids out of school and they will not go back until the Government retracts”. That is in a nutshell what the form says. And so, we are all going to be there to show our presence as we deliver the form. Again, I will call on the police and the Government; it is not a demonstration. This you are going to see replicating itself, and if we do not have a response by Friday, then you are going to see another notch”.
Corozal District Education Officer explained that according to the Education Act, when a child enters the school grounds, he or she becomes the responsibility of the institution and that the only way a parent can take that child out of school is the parent is able to justify reasons for wanting to do so. The Education Officer further affirmed that that should any parent or guardian not comply with these guidelines, the school is required to report the individual to the Police and if so wishes, request that the parent be arrested.