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Garifuna Language in Schools Program officially launched

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2024. 4:19 pm CST.

By Zoila Palma Gonzalez: On April 11, 2024, the National Garifuna Council and the Battle of the Drums Secretariat officially launched the Garifuna Language in Schools Program.

The event was hosted at Holy Family R.C. School in Hopkins Village, Belize, one of the target schools of the program.

“This momentous occasion marks a significant milestone in our collective efforts to revitalize and preserve the rich cultural heritage embodied in the Garifuna language,” a statement from the National Garifuna Council said.

The launch of the Garifuna Language in Schools Program is a testament of the collaborative endeavours between the National Garifuna Council and the Battle of the Drums Secretariat.

“By implementing this program in selected communities of Barranco, Punta Gorda, Georgetown, Seine Bight, Hopkins and Dangriga, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to safeguarding and revitalizing our ancestral language for the benefit of present and future generations,” the council added.

Attendees at the launch of the program included the Minister of Human Development, Families, and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, who expressed her ministry’s full support for the Garifuna Language in Schools Program.

She reaffirmed the indigenous identity of the Garifuna people in Belize and the need to provide support the keep the culture intact.

Also in attendance was the Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Dr. Louis Zabaneh.

Dr. Zabaneh highlighted the importance of the 2001 UNESCO declaration that recognizes the Garifuna Language, Dance and Music as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”, the significance of the Garifuna Language in Schools program and its alignment to the macro-competency number 5 of the national curriculum of the Ministry of Education and pledged his support to this vital initiative.

Reflecting on the occasion, the President of the Battle of the Drums, Darius Avila expressed regret that such an initiative wasn’t undertaken earlier but expressed delight that this pivotal moment has finally arrived. He also reminded that as Garinagu “we have a collective obligation to be engaged in the preservation of our culture”.

President of the National Garifuna Council, Sheena Zuniga, underscored the importance of preserving cultural heritage through the transmission of the ancestral language to future generations. “Our dedication to reclaiming Garifuna as the language of the home is paramount,” stated Zuniga.

“We recognize that the survival of our language hinges upon its transmission to our children, and we urge Garifuna parents to embrace this responsibility wholeheartedly,” Zuniga expressed.


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