UB Imprint Vol 23: UB Improving Early Childhood and Secondary Education in Northern Belize



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UB Improving Early Childhood and Secondary Education in Northern Belize

The University of Belize (UB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports and the European Union (EU) held a special closing ceremony to acknowledge the achievements of the Sugar Belt project on Saturday February 24, 2018 at the Muffles College High School Auditorium in Orange Walk Town.

The Governor General of Belize, H.E. Sir Colville Young, delivered the keynote address at the Closing Ceremony. He was introduced by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Harrison Pilgrim. The Governor General praised UB by saying, “In all of these areas UB has met the deliverables and in some cases exceeded what was required. This is testament to the hard work of the University of Belize team who oversaw the implementation of the programme. As the words of our national anthem states:
“Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold”.

Sir Colville Young receives plaque from Professor Emeritus Clement Sankat

This wealth my fellow Belizeans is not only our natural beauty, but it is our most valuable resource...Our People. As we take the necessary steps to develop our human capital and potential, programmes like this one have made a significant contribution to our national development. The foundation has been laid. Let us now go forward together with the University to develop our Human Capital so that all Belizeans will benefit.”

Mr. Mads Korn, European Union Project Manager shared special remarks reflecting on the project, “This project reflects our commitment to supporting the government to realize its development goals and what better way to demonstrate this than by investing in the upgrading of childhood and secondary education for the youth in Belize!

Now, I recall – some 33 months ago - our shared inauguration of this project, I made reference to former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair when he publicly was asked what is the most important for a country’s development? The, then, PM of The United Kingdom, answered three things: “education; education and; education”.”

UB President Professor Emeritus Clement Sankat in his opening address commended the Dean of the Faculty of Education and Arts and his Faculty and Staff who participated in this project for a job well done - one that will leave a lasting development in terms of trained teachers for the northern communities and to UB itself in terms of the embedding of new programs in teacher education in our offerings. The theme of the ceremony was “Development through Education”.

The top achievers for the project were recognized for their outstanding academic performance - Sucely Hill completed her Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education; Alisa Danielle Puck the Bachelor in Education with Concentration in English; Denzel Anthony Amstrong completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Education with Concentration in Mathematics; Arelie Eunica Mendez Canul the Bachelor in Education with Concentration in Science; Anita Elizabeth Blanco, Bachelor in Education with Concentration in Social Sciences; and Matilda Dorita Mendez, Bachelor Degree in Education with concentration in Spanish Education. Recognition awards were also presented to the Ministry of Education, European Union and the University of Belize.

The University of Belize thanks the Government of Belize and the European Union for their tremendous support.

Through the Sugar Belt Project, a total of 395 persons had the opportunity to upgrade their skills and receive certification in teacher education including at the Early Childhood level during the period June 2015 – February 2018. 20 teachers received certificates; 28 received an Associate’s Degree while 116 in-service teachers participated in Continuous Professional Development in Early Childhood Education. Meanwhile at the secondary level 20 teachers got their Diploma in Secondary Education, 111 received a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education, and 100 parents were sensitized about the benefits of Early Childhood Education.

The project valued at approximately €1,2M (BZ$ 2.6M) was funded by the European Union along with the Government of Belize and the University of Belize. Its overall objective was to improve the quality and relevance of early childhood and secondary education in northern Belize. The Target Groups were uncertified Early Childhood and Secondary Teachers in Northern Belize; licensed teachers who required continuing professional development; and teachers and parents of children at the Early Childhood level in remote communities in northern Belize.
The overall objectives of the project were to:
1. Increase access to professional development and certification programs for teachers at the early childhood and secondary levels;
2. Improve the quality and relevance of early childhood and secondary school teaching; and
3. Increase access to early childhood education for parents, teachers and children in remote communities.

“The project provided the educators with certification, affordability and convenience as they were able to continue teaching while pursuing their degree.“ President Sankat emphasized that, “The long-term effect of the Project is also expected to be high because the trained teachers will be available to teach and apply their training until retirement. Another long-term impact will be the perpetual application of good parenting skills by parents who were exposed to the workshop and the expo.”

The University of Belize has benefitted from this program in numerous ways, for instance:
(1) The Faculty of Education got training and experience in training teachers to use the competency-based and play approach to teaching.
(2) The Faculty got experience in teaching using a blended approach (online and face-to-face) as eight courses were so developed.
(3) The secondary education bachelor’s degree program which was offered in the Banana Belt Project was strengthened as a result of the Project.
(4) UB has added experience in administering EU project.
(5) And most importantly, UB is using information from this Project and has developed its own ECE Associate Degree program which started in August of 2017 in Belize City, and in the South, Punta Gorda.

President Sankat spoke on how the Project fits into the University’s Transformational Plan, “ In our transformational plan, Vision 2022 we speak of the 4R’s, Reach, Relevance, Responsiveness and Responsibility. This project has touched on all four! Because of this Project and conversations which we have been having, on our reach as UB is in Belize City, Belmopan, Cayo, the South, PG, why not in the North? Our Board of Trustees has approved our plan to also be present here in Orange Walk/Corozal Town. Let us work together to make this a Reality. We cannot do it alone and need the support of this community. Let’s build UB together.”

Ariadne Gomez, an Early Childhood educator was one of the beneficiaries who received a Certificate in Early Childhood Education. She had high praises for the project, “My fondness for children coupled with a desire to help mould them, makes me so happy that when I learned of the Sugar Belt Project sponsored by the EU and the Government of Belize with instruction through the University of Belize, I simply could not say no to such a great opportunity because of its ease of access and affordability.”

“Education has a powerful transformative effect. It can lift children and their parents and communities from poverty to prosperity, from hopelessness to hope, through a process of knowledge and enlightenment.”
Professor Emeritus Clement Sankat