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May 19, 2004

U.B. students apply knowledge in St. Matthew’s

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Institutions of higher learning no longer see themselves as isolated ivory towers…and from its creation, the University of Belize has prided itself on a “real world” approach to education. Today that concept was amply demonstrated in a small village on the Western Highway where University of Belize students applied their knowledge. Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The students took to the donated computers like chalk to a freshly painted blackboard.

Third year information technology student Rona Parham says the four rebuilt machines which are running Windows 98 and ME operating systems, are loaded with educational software.

Rona Parham, Third Year Student, University of Belize

“We have three programmes for the students to use. One is My ABCD. That one teaches the students their ABC, their 123 and it has different activities that test their ABCD skills and their 123. Another program we have is Crayola that is a programme that helps them to be creative. It has a colouring book, it has activity books, it has certificate maker, badge maker, and many other little activities. And another one is Mavis Beacon. It teaches them to type. It has typing lessons and some games that test their typing skills.”

And in keeping with the goal of helping the children in their learning, Principal of St. Matthews Government School, Ben Mengivar, says the teachers can now add one more activity to the curriculum while at the same time improving preparation of teaching aids.

Ben Mengivar, Principal, St. Matthews Government School

“Yes the teachers definitely will be having access to these computers, especially to do their exams and run them off and so on. We hope to have a nice printer in the near future, maybe by September so that by next year they can always print out whatever exercise they have for the students, seat work, whatever, exams, whatever; that’s how these computers will be used by the teachers.”

The computers were literally pieced together by the thirteen students of U.B.’s P.C. Repair Course, which is part of the institution’s Bachelor’s Degree program. Medard Chun says many long hours were spent over the last four months interconnecting parts to come up with today’s donation.

Medard Chun, Third Year Student, University of Belize

“We had the whole semester working on this project. We took about four months due to the lack of parts. We had to go out into the community, ask for donations, ask for parts, ask for computers that were not working so that we could use the parts to assemble new machines. So everybody just gathered all the bits and pieces of different machines and just put them together and at the end of the semester it just went well.”

According to I.T. lecturer Antonio Crespo, taking one person?s junk and turning it into a community’s technology is one way the university relates to the people it serves.

Antonio Crespo, I.T. Lecturer, University of Belize

“Well, I would say that’s a way to give back to the community what the University is getting from another sector of the same community. Because this programme is based on what institutions, individuals, companies give to the P.C. Repair Course. And since they are donating, they are giving the university something; the university has to also give it back to somewhere else.”

And when smiles lit up the excited faces of the children today, it was payment enough for the U.B. students who laboured steadily over the machines to make them work.

Rona Parham

“I feel very proud of it. I mean it was a lot of hard work. We got frustrated, I mean when we were trying to find mother boards, video cards. But I know it was really worth it when I came here and I saw the students and I know they need it and they will make a lot of use with it.”

And while their first steps towards the future needed guidance from steady hands, the enthusiasm of these upper division students will no doubt propel them toward destinations far beyond their quite village. Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Crespo says that because the computers were assembled from salvaged parts, the University of Belize cannot give a warranty on the machines; but the school was given a commitment that U.B. will do all it can to keep the computers as functional as possible. The institution’s special relationship with St. Matthew’s village dates back to 1994, when the former University College of Belize raised funds to build the bus shelter which currently serves the community.

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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