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Feb 7, 2011

NICH’s Essay Competition analyses social and cultural cohesiveness

We often hear of secondary school competition on the courts, fields and playing grounds. But the Institute of Social and Cultural Research designed a competition of the mind that questions the ties that bind us together as a people.   The high school competition had the participation of close to a dozen schools, and the finalists in the essay contest gave well informed views about the state of the country and how far we’ve come socially and culturally since independence in 1981. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports from the House of Culture.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The Institute of Social and Cultural Research’s essay competition was whittled down from ten to three schools.  How cohesive are we socially and culturally since 1981? The first participant Gian Aguilar, a sacred Heart College Student, spoke about music and the Creole language as the glue that holds ethnic groups together.

Gian Aguilar, Sacred Heart College

Gian Aguilar

“The glue that has brought social and cultural cohesion to Belize since its independence would definitely have to be Belize’s rich music and unifying Creole language and the efforts of the government to educate its people and to provide health care and improve infrastructure. No society can prosper under colonial exploitation, oppression and dependency. These were exactly the conditions under which Belize was while a colony of Great Britain where social chaos reigned and cohesion was poor. Belize was poorly developed economically infrastructure in the country was terrible and healthcare was scarce and not accessible for all Belizeans—creating many divisions and inequalities among the people. There is still a level of prejudice among some races and social classes. Crime, violence and corruption, the biggest issues in our Belizean society today, prevent the nation from reaching its full potential of social and cultural cohesion. Let us unite Belize! Let us leave all the crime violence and corruption behind! And this way and only this way can we ensure ourselves a bright and promising future.”

Amenzee Amu

The only female finalist, Amenzee Amu, a Palotti  High School student spoke of crime and migration relevant factors to social cohesiveness.

Amenzee Amu, Palotti High School

“Since our independence, we made some improvements in the breaking down of segregation and the acceptance of different cultures. Conversely, an area in which progress has been limited includes our inability to control violence and establishing a fair system of social mobility. Clearly, migration patterns has caused a gap between ethnic groups—the Garifuna settled in the south and Mestizo in the north, Creole in Central Belize and Cayo Districts and the other cultures found their homes in the same or other parts of the country. Our society today has really disintegrated, so much that lives have been taken, but not a single solution has been found as yet. It is difficult to concede that there is unity when criminal elements seem to have complete dominance in Belize City and are creeping their ways into other districts.”

Andre Alamina, St. John’s College

Andre Alamina

“There are five dimensions to social cohesion and they are all equally essential to achieving cohesion in a nation. Material conditions, passive and active relationships and also inclusion and equality are five fundamental components to achieving social cohesion. Under material conditions comes employment, income, health, education and housing. On a closer examination of the current state of the above components in our country, you will see that they lend their hand to the belief that social cohesion is still something lacking in our beautiful country of democracy. The IMF reports are that roughly thirty percent of our country’s working population were unemployed in the year 2010. Now this percentage can see a considerably increase in the year 2011 with a number of companies now being held in receivership.”

John Morris

After the presentations, the Associate Director of the Institute of Archaeology spoke about the colonial history as well as global popular culture as oft unwelcomed patterns in Belize’s journey to becoming cohesive.

John Morris, Associate Director, Institute of Archaeology

“The three schools that have come to the forefront here are three Catholic schools. I ask the question; ‘What happened to the public schools? Do they not have bright intelligent students or are we seeing precisely what these young people have spoken about—about the inequity of the educational system in this country?  We have to recognize to some degree that what we need to understand about Belize’s social cohesiveness is that we have to understand what culture is, what our culture is, where did our culture come from and where (God forbid) is going. That is the key. I will point something out to you; since 1981, this is the first competition on social and cultural cohesiveness that I can recall ever taken place. Why has it taken us thirty years to do this?”

The winner of the essay contest was S.J.C.’s Andre Alamina.  Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Second place winner was Amenzee Amu from Pallotti High School while Gian Aguilar from Sacred Heart in San Ignacio placed third.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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16 Responses for “NICH’s Essay Competition analyses social and cultural cohesiveness”

  1. BZNinCALI says:

    Great job kids.

    Mr. Morris, if the other schools are falling behind, it is safe to assume that it is because we do nothing to correct our shortcomings including hiring competent staff. Our last two PMs graduated from St. Michael’s now ACC while we were under British rule & Colville Young did not have to fear prosecution when he punished or chastised them. Our children are having enough problems, we do not need Catholic, Protestant differences thrown in the mix.

  2. roska says:

    It’s sad to see people like DR. Morris chastising good schools for their preformance…!! I assume he has fallen for Patrick’s misguided principle of criticizing the good catholic schools for their quality education and trying to downplay them rather than trying to uplift the other denominational or govnt schools!!!

    I, attended SJC sixth form (under a working scholarship program) along with many blacks and east indians… many of them prominent members of society today….. the racial slur he spoke about (as reported on channel 7) did not stop many of us to excel in life… Our dedication and that of our parents made the difference…

    The “inequity of the educational system” he spoke about is the perfect excuse many of us use to rationalize our poor parenting…. that “inequality” begins at home with poor parenting and with educated fools who see our own (as a people) negativism and low aspirations in life as a product of racism…. and more sadly try to indoctrinate our MTV and BET educated youths in that mindset!!!

    SORRY for you Dr. Morris….. if by now you have not come to terms with the colour of our skin!!!

  3. Sport says:

    BZNinCali, you are totally missing Mr. Morris’ point. He’s simply pointing out the obvious truth, that there is inequity in the school system. This portion of his comments fit in perfectly well with the essay topic of social cohesion. The semi-private, church sponsored schools tend to perfom better than the public schools, not for religious reasons, but because of better resources, more funding. Yes, public schools have produced some top-notch Belizeans like the ones you mentioned, but on a whole, students in public schools get the lousy end of the education stick.

    I’m sure in California, you have the same issue.

  4. Proud Belizean says:

    Great initiative by Nich. Congratulations to the winners.

    Public Schools falling behind, yet the Minister of Education painted a different picture in his almost an hour-long address to the graduates of UB on 28 January 2011. He was almost boo-ed down for his political speech at the graduation.

    The reality is, this gov’t has the whole country in a mess. Education is the key, yet they spend so much on new vehicles. Those finances could be used instead to purchase school books for the poor.

  5. louisville,ky says:

    roska, you seem to be reading between the lines of Mr. Morris’ speech and therein lies your problem. Take a moment and check between the lines again. You got nothing there.
    All Mr. Morris is saying is that one thing that would go a long way in fostering cultural cohesion, is that all our youths get to play on a level educational field.
    Another thing to my mind that would help, is the teaching of African and Mayan history in our schools. See…. if you don’t know where you came from, you would be somewhat confused as to where you are going. Are you a tad bit confused roska??

  6. rastamanforever says:

    Thanks roska… I also find it sad and disappointing to hear a man of the caliber of Dr. Morris challenging the “melting pot fantasy’ as he said on channel 7 news. We as blacks, all the way from PhD holders to the common grassroots people, have to STOP USING OUR SKIN COLOR as an excuse for mediocrity and a breakdown of our values. We have to take responsibility of our weaknesses – our poor parenting, as roska put it… we have to stop using CAB LE TV (MTV and BET )as substitute parents for our children…. THAT’S WHAT FILLING THEIR HEAD WITH GARBAGE…

    I live in a mostly hispanic area, where the “melting pot fantasy’ is NOT a fantasy…. And when my neighbors call me “el negrito” i have no problem with it… because IAM NEGRITO!!!! and I DONT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT….. and they dont have a problem me calling them “yellow belly pania” either… or “chinie man” to the shop owner.. or “coolie man’ to my next door neighbor… as long as we all live in PEACE…. which I cannot have amoung my own people.!!

    What i do have a problem is living amoung my own black brethren and live in fear that one of them may shoot me down or harm my family!!! Reason why I chose to flee the city and live as far as possible from it…..

    Seems the kids that won the awards are seeing a better picture than Dr. Morris…. they all agree that corruption and criminal behaviour are our greatest problem…. while Morris blames RACISM and “inequality in the education system” for it!!! The inequality is there…. but on how we raise our children and take responsibility for them…

    BRETHREN….. WAKE UP.. THERE IS NO CONSPIRATION AGAINST US…. like I have said many times…. we are the ones keeping ourselves down (with the help of false black leaders who only rationalize our weaknesses)…. and only us can bring us up…. who are the ones killing our blacks on the streerts??? the whites? the mestizo??? the Mayas?? No…. its us killing ourselves over garbage portrayed on TV!!!

    “only we can save ourselves from mental slavery” – BOB MARLEY… a true prophet!!!

  7. sofia says:

    Why do we belizeans always blame race and capitalism for our poor achievements and low aspirations in life and always finding the easy and quick way out for being lazy. Its not only the educational system but us as a society and our values in parenting and even our leading newspaper feeling sorry for us and letting us feel we aarre the victims of a system. LETS BE REAL. WHEN SOMEONE WANTS TO EXCELL IT IS POSSIBLE…Most belizeans who have made it started from also poverty and a humble background and neighborhood. I know of a mayan friend studied with me and had a working sholarship for a sixth form, and mentioned that to reach to high school from hIS village he had to wake up early every morning at 5.00 a.m help his mother set upp for a panades sale, then take a ferry canoe and then bike 30 minutes to reach to his high school.. This he did for 4 years and now he has his own succesful business. So, do we tackle this problem with the truth no matter what ethnicity its is more prevalent on or do we continue fooling ourselves and change nothing but blame everything aNd everyone except us. Look at statistics of ethnicity, in graduating ethnic percentile and then we can start serious discussions. But guess what we arre not ready to say the ethnic race word because we are afraid and as a conseqquence we continue the same path. Look at the percentile of ethniciity in prisons.. look at the percentile ethnicity murders and its prevalennt location. So, my fellow belizeans as much as it hurts me to admit it since i am from belize city, I AM READY TO FACE IT AND START REAL DISCUSSION AND SAY IT LOUDLY AND MOVE FORWARD TO A SOLUTION. ARE YOU, FOR OUR CHILDRENS SAKE ??

  8. BZNinCALI says:

    Sport, I am a product of those semi private, government subsidized church administered schools. Resources may be an issue but attitude & commitment on the part of the community, the government & the staff determine the output. St, Michael’s & St Hilda’s now ACC are semi private just as SCA, Wesley & the ones mentioned, Musa & Barrow are only exceptional because they are now a permanent part of our history, many bright students from humble backgrounds have done well because they were encouraged to excel. I didn’t miss the point, our job as adults is to do what we can to uplift our society. Highlighting good students is important, if the other schools did not participate, ask why & what schools did the other 7 children who did not win come from. The cup is not half empty, we cannot continue to tell our people that they are not good enough, we cannot pick ourselves up by pulling each other down.

    In response to your second point. Fortunately, I live in an excellent school district & made the decision to make my children a priority & be an active part of their education. However, if I had it to do over again, I would have kept them in a parochial school when I moved into what by most standards is considered an excellent neighborhood.

  9. Sport says:

    Sofia, compare the young man who grows up in PG to the young man who grows up in Southside Belize City and look at the difference in external and environmental factors that influence how they will approach education and work. Yes, there are always cases of the exceptional people who arise out of difficult circumstances, but patterns will show you that flaws in the system play a role in the “poor achievements and low aspirations in life” of many. It’s not just a matter of being lazy. There are inequalities that need to be addressed. I am grateful for the excellent education that the, as BZNinCali correctly put it, “semi private, government subsidized church administered schools” provides to our youth. I am a product of that system too. But you have to ask yourself, what’s your likelihood to attend one of those schools if you were born in torn, economically challenged Southside family where a gun and drug use is a common sight? What are your options? Will the underresourced public high schools with the lower fees and lower bar for grades help you as much as the church administrered school is helping the other student who came from the more nurturing family and less violent neigborhood? How does the girl who grew up in a gang-ridden neighborhood handle the culture shock of an environment like SCA? Aren’t we as a society responsible to ensure that students from both types of institutions are receiving a quality education? I know that the Ministry of Education attempts to address these inequalities. It must be a challege. They are probably underesourced too … you’ll see that all of these inequalities tie into why NICH is even proposing this essay topic on “social and cultural cohesion.”

  10. Sport says:

    Andre Alamina wrote in his essay: “There are five dimensions to social cohesion and they are all equally essential to achieving cohesion in a nation. Material conditions, passive and active relationships and also inclusion and equality are five fundamental components to achieving social cohesion. Under material conditions comes employment, income, health, education and housing.” …. I think all of us could use a copy of this boy’s essay because I think it would help us better understand Morris’ comments.

  11. Sport says:

    And also, while we all seem to agree that the semi private, government subsidized church administered schools are producing top students, they still have great needs and MUCH MORE room for advancement.

  12. BZNinCALI says:

    Sport, I am a product of the south side of Belize City, I had NOTHING but god given intelligence which was nurtured by a couple of very good underpaid teachers who saw my potential & encouraged excellence. I am not the exception. I know children from the south side who graduated from SCA, SJC & other high schools in the city and now have advanced degrees. What they all have in common is that they were not allowed to believe that growing up in less than perfect circumstances justified mediocrity.

  13. BZNinCALI says:

    roska & rastamanforever, I took the time out to read what was aired on Channel 7. We need to start giving our educated @$$es a daily dose of common sense. The British may be gone but we are still slaves to our own misguided sense of inferiority which convinces us that those of us who have cracked open a book or two & actually absorbed the material are the exceptions. Belize Technical College was our only Government High School in the City for years & they had a history of hiring excellent teachers. Sec 1 now E. P. Yorke provided children who would otherwise have nowhere to go after Primary School the opportunity to further their education in 69-70 & in 71 Sec2, now Gwen Liz. I mention them because like Wesley, Hilda’s & Michael’s, these same “low performing” “non Catholic” schools have produced PhDs & we need to tell our children what they can do with what they have rather than emphasize imaginary differences.

    What I read bordered on schizophrenic, “Cooley” “Creole” what? Can someone post Mr. Morris entire speech & the essays from all 10 children online.

  14. Sport says:

    Maybe it will take a Hurricane Katrina to hit Belize for you to understand the correlation between poverty and opportunity in Belize.

  15. Sport says:

    “Belize Technical College was our only Government High School in the City for years & they had a history of hiring excellent teachers. Sec 1 now E. P. Yorke provided children who would otherwise have nowhere to go after Primary School the opportunity to further their education in 69-70 & in 71 Sec2, now Gwen Liz. I mention them because like Wesley, Hilda’s & Michael’s, these same “low performing” “non Catholic” schools have produced PhDs & we need to tell our children what they can do with what they have rather than emphasize imaginary differences. ”

    TIMES HAVE CHANGED! When these PhD holders were going to these schools, they had half the challenges that are facing students today.

  16. Sport says:

    We are talking about young people growing up in an explosive environment of crime, poverty and narcotic trade. Youth who are engaging themselves the stinkest, lowest kind of youth culture America has to offer. You ask Mr. PhD who graduated from St. Michael’s how many of his classmates’ relatives were victims of gang violence. Probably none. Ask a student at St. Michael’s and Wesley today and check the difference. Get real, man.

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