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May 30, 2002

Too many students, too few spaces in schools

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If you’re a student, the biggest thing on your mind right now is the upcoming summer vacation. For parents, however, especially those with a child about to enter primary school for the first time, it can be a season for stress. Ann-Marie reports.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

Primary school is not yet out for the summer, but already there is mounting concern by many parents over the new school year. The problem seems to be that there are more children than there are space in the classroom.

Myrna Shepherd, Principal of Grace Primary School, says space constraint is a perennial problem for their school, which is smaller than most others in the city.

Myrna Shepherd, Principal, Grace Primary School

“What happen this year, we had to take in even less children. We are trying to cut down from that fifty-five children to one teacher, which we do not think is very feasible. And this year, with the parents who already have children here, the space was filled within no time. We had two days scheduled for registration, and the first day all spaces were gone, because we cut it down to forty-five children.”

And more than half of those forty-five children have brothers and sisters already attending the institution; that doesn’t leave many seats for outsiders.

Myrna Shepherd

“Usually, we take in the children who parents already have siblings here. Those are the children that we give first preference to. If we have any additional space, then we just open it to whosoever comes in first.”

Carl Lopez, Vice-principal of All Saints Primary says they had spaces for ninety students, but still had to turn back some parents; a challenge Lopez maintain they’re faced with annually.

Carl Lopez, Vice-principal, All Saints Primary

“I don’t think we can make any accommodations. We just either need to be strict with our policy, whereby we have thirty-five children per teacher, or we accommodate the parents and crowd the classroom, which makes education much more difficult for the children. Because a crowded classroom is not the best place for a child, especially at Infant One to be in. The management of the schools are really strap for cash, and so they won’t be able to put up a new building on their own. The school itself cannot do it, so it’s always depending on the government to put up a new building.”

We met parents trying to register their little ones over at St. John Vianney in the Port Loyola area of Belize City. This parent came up empty handed in an attempt to place his child at the school.

Principal speaking to parent

“The problem in Port is that we only have one school, we only have St. John Vianney and we have Muhammad, which isn’t very big either. While when people live on Fairweather Street, you have Queen Square, St. John’s, St. Ignatius, a number of schools.”

St. John Vianney Principal Anita Wade says no parent should have to be told that his or her child cannot attend her school because of lack of space.

Anita Wade, Principal, St. John Vianney

“It’s really sad and it’s very stressful, in that there are certain amount of people in this area. This area is a growing area, a lot of move into the area and they don’t have too many choices when it comes to school, we only have St. John Vianney and we already have an attendance of six hundred and fifty. We can’t put anymore, we are bursting with six hundred and fifty. And the Sister Clara Muhammad school, which is a smaller school than St. John Vianney.”

Both Lopez and Wade agree that to meet the growing needs of communities there is only one option: build more schools.

Carl Lopez

“I believe the outlying areas, Buttonwood Bay, can take a school up there right now. Belama will take a school, back at Complex could take a school.”

Anita Wade

“They don’t want to send their children way over to Queen Square or St. John’s or St. Ignatius for that matter, it’s pretty far when we have people that come from way down Faber’s Road. This is more of less the closest school for them, so everybody try to flock in this area.”

Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

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