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Feb 8, 2022

Guatemalan Students Still Unable to Attend In-Person Classes in Belize

What’s happening with the hundreds of students from neighbouring Guatemala who study in Belize? Today, a News Five team visited with Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Primary School in Benque Viejo del Carmen. About twenty percent of its student population resides in Guatemala, and pre-pandemic, they commuted daily across the border for classes.  The process that was in place prior to March 2020 cannot apply, for obvious reasons. But as we found out today, a new system has not been activated yet to see them returned to the classrooms. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Maria Moh

Maria Moh, Resident, Benque Viejo del Carmen [Translated]

“As long as they are protected and safe, I am okay with my children coming back to school.” For the Guatemalans no; only for Belizeans. If the kids have COVID-19, no come for school. It could be contagious for the next babies.”


Voice of: Juana Sam, Resident, Benque Viejo del Carmen

“Well I can’t complain. The teacher is right there behind him, everything, sending work. And for him to come to school, I think it is the best idea because he learn more, he read more – it’s good for me.”


Duane Moody, Reporting

Parents out west are elated about their children returning to the classrooms. But Guatemalan students are unable to attend in-person classes in Belize. At the Mount Carmel R.C. School in Benque Viejo del Carmen, there is an enrolment of about one thousand one hundred students and the institution was given the green light to successfully reopen for hybrid learning.


Melvin Manzanero, Principal, Mount Carmel Government School

“At the entrances we have the wash basins; as a matter of fact, we have markers. We have in our offices, the protective shields. In the classrooms, every classroom here at our school has their own wash basins. So they sanitise when they come in and the teachers have their protocols within their classrooms too.”


Melvin Manzanero

They too are doing a shift system with approximately three hundred students inside its classrooms on a daily basis, while others are learning remotely. But what about the two hundred and twenty-four students who live across the border in neighbouring Guatemala?


Melvin Manzanero

“When I refer to students that live across there, we have sixty-one Belizean students that live over in Melchor because of their parents’ situation and we have the difference that is from Guatemala, Melchor itself. They have shown interest in coming to school now. As the principal, I went ahead and did the necessary preparations with the relevant authorities as it refers to [Ministry of] Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the immigration department. I usually would provide them with a list of these students so as to facilitate their crossing so we don’t have to be distributing letters for every child.”


As had been done in the past, the children were provided with a student visa of sorts for an ease of commute through the western border. But over the weekend, Principal Melvin Manzanero was informed that everything was not in place and so those students cannot enter Belize.


Janel Espat

Janel Espat, Chief Financial Officer, Border Management Agency

“Currently students are not being encouraged to enter. However, based on the requirements, they can enter if they like to. But with the requirements that are in place that would mean that if they enter daily, then obviously they would have to be tested every day. So that’s the reason why they are not being encouraged at this time.”


At a hundred dollars daily, the cost would be exorbitant for not only the hundreds of children who study in Belize, but also migrant workers who commute on a daily basis.  The Ministry of Health is working on additional protocols to address these persons.


Kevin Bernard

Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health

“Just today; that’s something we are discussing. There are some concerns, but we are going to come back to cabinet for a final decision at the next cabinet meeting. Myself and the COVID team has already discussed some of the issues, but we are going to come to cabinet next week with a paper that will discuss those necessary things.”


Duane Moody for News Five.


The Ministry of Health and Wellness announced today that young people aged twelve to seventeen years are now eligible to receive their booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.  The Ministries of Health and Education say those not attending school can get vaccinated at nearby schools and schedule times that will be shared shortly by both ministries. 

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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