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Jan 8, 2013

Schools, businesses and banks close upon perceived threat

Schools and businesses will go back to schedule on Wednesday but this morning the downtown and south side areas closed down. Fearing the worst, parents picked up their children from various schools and to ensure the safety of employees, businesses pulled down their shutters. News Five’s Delahnie Bain has that story.

 

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

As word of the violence spread this morning, a sense of panic also swept through the city; so much so that some schools ended classes early. And while the Ministry of Education’s position was that it would be safer to keep the children in class, all schools were allowed to release the students, but only into the care of a parent or guardian.

 

Arlette Gomez

Arlette Gomez, Information Officer, Ministry of Education

“I guess in the spate of all the violence that has been happening, some schools decided that they would be closing classes. I don’t think that anybody sent the children home; what they did is that they issued advisories asking parents to come and pick up their children, which is in the same vein of the Ministry’s release. We’re saying that we’ve decided that the best thing for us to do is to keep the children in classes; they’re safer there but if parents felt that their children would be safer with them then they were free to pick them up from the school. But we ask that the parents come and pick them up, we were not going to be releasing children onto the streets on their own. So that was the position that the Ministry took this morning.”

 

Most primary schools were cleared out and locked down by midday while at high schools the idea was to continue normal classes while giving concerned parents the option of picking up their children. But the day was far from normal, especially at Wesley College where the chaos was heightened after false reports of an armed robbery at the school was circulated. Stella B was among the many parents and grandparents who lined up to take students home.

 

Stella B, Grandmother, Wesley College Student

“Well believe you me, I have already raised my children dem; I’m living for my grandchildren dem and dats hwy I came to pick them up from school.”

 

Delahnie Bain

“So how did you hear about all that’s happening this morning?”

 

Stella B

Stella B

“Well, my daughter call me and seh mom you have to go pick up your grandkids dem and I make my move.”

 

Delahnie Bain

“So you think they’ll be safer with you at home?”

 

Stella B

“Safely home.”

 

Arlette Gomez

“We’ve asked that if the parents themselves were not going to pick up the students, for them to send an adult with some sort of identification to pick up the students from their schools. So they were all allowing them to take their children home if they chose to do so.”

 

Classes are to resume on Wednesday, but in the meantime, Gomez is advising parents to stay tuned for official advisories.

 

Arlette Gomez

“The ministry and the minister, we’re asking people to stay safe. Please don’t panic, don’t listen to rumors, wait until official advisories have been given whether it’s from the ministry or from National Security or whomever/ listen to the media houses, who are being very responsible at this time in sending out he necessary advisories as they come. So don’t listen to rumors and just follow the official advisories as they come out.”

 

In downtown Belize City, the business community also took notice of the spate of violent crimes. Several stores closed for the day and the banks shut their doors early this afternoon. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

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