By Aaron Humes: Students attending four Belize City high schools on the Southside will be the focus of a new program essentially paying for all aspects of their education.
The Belize Education Upliftment Project: Together We Rise targets Gwen Lizarraga High School, Maud Williams, Excelsior, and Sadie Vernon High Schools. The latter three were previously effectively merged in terms of teaching similar curricula several years ago.
Minister of Education and Culture Francis Fonseca explains that students attending these institutions will be covered in tuition fees, basic supplies from uniforms to textbooks through the Student Welfare Unit of the Ministry; a feeding program at each school, and digital devices for use in their education.
Fonseca added that each school is getting an infrastructural uplift as well: “A very important part of it as well is infrastructure development of these institutions, as many of these institutions are at some level of disrepair.”
But since nothing is ever truly free, who’s paying? Fonseca said the money has been set aside: “It’s already budgeted for. So, we have the funds available and we are absolutely excited. We’ve been engaged with all of these institutions, the principals, and the boards, getting ready for the new school year. So, we believe it’s going to be a very, very good initiative.”
And Fonseca stated that this is part of turning around the communities these schools are located in: “The whole idea is, as you all know, that these are at-risk communities. These schools are in at-risk communities and vulnerable communities. Over the past few years, we have seen that these schools have actually been losing students. It’s amazing. We have to invest in these schools. We have to ensure that we are increasing enrolment in these institutions and providing incentives to our students in these communities to go to school.”