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Nov 30, 2005

Educators: Many Bzean students are emotionally handicapped

Story PictureACE: Adult and Continuing Education, it’s not a new concept to Belize, but after an extended period of dormancy, the movement is being revived. According to administrators, the unit is now in the second year of its five year national action plan which focuses on youth empowerment and participation. But as News Five’s Janelle Chanona found out today, filling chairs in the classroom is only the first step in educating the country’s at-risk youth.

Dr. Elizabeth Cardenas, Nat?l Coord, Adult & Continuing Ed.
?Education is lifelong learning, so you should not feel bad if you do not know something, there?s a place out there for you to learn.?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
That?s the message coming out of the Ministry of Education today as officials gathered to discuss the state of Adult and Continuing Education in Belize.

Dr. Elizabeth Cardenas
?The service providers and even the students are excited. Many people have come to Adult and Continuing Education over the past four months, wanting a place to learn computer literacy or to complete their high school equivalency and the list goes on and on and on.?

According to National Coordinator of the ACE unit, Dr. Elizabeth Cardenas, the idea of going back to school or staying in school is catching on.

The latest development in the programme?s teaching tactics comes in the form of a CD that deals specifically with phonics.

Dr. Elizabeth Cardenas
?The CD is related to promoting literacy and particularly phonics, because that is a major problem with the youths that we find, and even adults. And it?s for primary school, adult and continuing education. And what we tried to do was to localise it, use the names of animals, and fruits from the country, and even the whole idea of putting it together was from some youths.?

But tonight officials admit that while Belizeans of all ages are going back to the classroom, teachers are coming face to face with a more disturbing problem.

Yolanda Martinez
?I believe that a lot of our young people are emotionally handicapped, emotionally and socially.?

According to Guidance Counsellor Yolanda Martinez, learning is a challenge for students with mental obstacles.

Yolanda Martinez, Guidance Counsellor Excelsior High
?We believe that a lot of them are emotionally handicapped because of situations that they have come out of, broken situations. And because of that we find out that many times we have had to address the present issue that the child is facing before the child can go on, because if a child is not well emotionally, it would be very difficult for them to learn.?

Martinez, who has been teaching for more than twenty-five years, believes in the value of counselling and guidance at school.

Yolanda Martinez
?So that the student can know that there is a place for you to come to talk about what you are facing, to talk about your feelings. And I guess the relationship that is built between the teacher and the child, the entire atmosphere at the school, it?s like a home setting, school-friendly environment where the child can feel comfortable, okay I can go and speak with someone with someone because I need to talk.?

Martinez maintains that once the student can talk, they can learn by using teaching plans that cater to their specific needs. At Excelsior High, the reading programme has produced tremendous success.

Yolanda Martinez
?The students are placed according to their level of reading and I believe that is working really well because it builds their confidence because they are able to see okay, I am at a level where the teacher is working with me from there to take me to another level.?

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

For more information on Adult and Continuing Education, please contact their offices at 227-0044.

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