Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2022. 12:18 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: There can be no greater indictment of any Government, Minister of Education Francis Fonseca stated, than a rise in the national poverty rate from 40 to 52 percent between 2009 and 2018 – and rising.
And while the new Government could have sat and “cried” and “waited for the deluge”, he said, they “rolled up their sleeves and got to work,” and one year later, the results are there for all to see.
Belize’s economic growth is 12.5 percent; the debt portfolio has been lowered, unemployment is down and industries are growing gangbusters. The Government has turned Belize around from the mire it was in under the previous administration, according to Fonseca.
And Belmopan’s efforts have not gone unnoticed: the dreaded International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been singing Belize’s praises after threats of retrenchment and devaluation, and it is the darling of environmentalists and conservationists for the ‘Blue Bond’ effort.
In his area of education, Fonseca said, Belize is “on the way” to re-opening all schools, which he considers important to children’s development. Approximately 90 percent of schools at present have some form of face-to-face instruction and he hopes to make it full-time, five days a week, for the start of the new school year in September. In this regard he gave thanks to the Ministry of Health and all stakeholders – churches, the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU); administrators, parents, multilateral and bilateral partners – for fulfilling the shared plan of returning students to school and plan for lost recovery time.
Under what is known as the Education Upliftment Project (EUP), Fonseca said, free education would be provided at four Government-run high schools in Southside Belize City – not just tuition but books, equipment, transportation, and so on.
There will be a Healthy Start School Feeding Program, with funding support from the Republic of China (Taiwan) and a counterpart from the Government, with the objective that “no child should go to school hungry” as it would interfere with their ability to properly learn. This is an expansion of the original program that Fonseca characterized as only being run out of the Collet Resource Center.
In the area of technology, Fonseca said it is the Government’s intent to expand internet access to every classroom and is working with the Social Investment Fund and Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations to obtain sufficient digital devices for students.
In early childhood education, Fonseca said the Ministry would try its best to attach established pre-schools to nearby primary schools where possible and noted that preschool teachers continue to be paid by the Government as they first were when he was in charge years ago.
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