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Aug 11, 2022

Free Education Pilot Project to be Introduced in 2022 School Year

Students attending high school at either of four south side institutions at the beginning of the new academic year will benefit from a new program that is being rolled out by the Ministry of Education.  Those enrolling at Maud Williams, Excelsior, Gwen Liz and Sadie Vernon will no longer have to worry about finding tuition, new uniforms, books, school bags and even breakfast.  It’s all being covered by government.  All that will be required from them is daily attendance and good grades.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks at a pilot project to introduce free education.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The prospect of going through secondary school without having to pay tuition, purchase books and uniforms, or finding something to eat in the morning, has been an election pledge made by political parties for many years.  That promise has never really been fulfilled, despite attempts by successive administrations to make education more affordable to all. The Briceño administration, as part of its Plan Belize manifesto, has embarked on an ambitious initiative, beginning with a free education pilot project in four high schools in Belize City.


Louis Zabaneh

Dr. Louis Zabaneh, Minister of State, Ministry of Education

“At the start of the new year, that kicks in.  So, students going in there now will have all of this taken care of by the government, in terms of not having to pay tuition.  We are also looking at some other services that go with that.  The schools have been asking us to look at a meal per day, whether it is at breakfast or lunch, to also be able to encourage enrollment by students.  The students in these areas have so many challenges.  A part of it is that many of them might not even have food, so they don’t have the energy to pay attention in class.  So, these are some of the things that we are looking at.  Then, we roll that out.  We are hoping that Dalille starts at the beginning of the year.  Then, as resources permit, we then add on more and more schools.  We have sixty-two high schools in the country.  We are starting with four.  By the end of this academic school year we will be at five, and we roll out going forward.”


Among the four secondary schools in Belize City are Maud Williams and Excelsior high schools.  Deborah Domingo is the principal at Maud Williams.


Deborah Domingo

Deborah Domingo, Principal, Maud Williams High School

“There was an assessment done of the four government-owned schools in Belize City, particularly south side Belize City and there were things that we had in common, challenges that we had in common. We served the same profile of students, hence the commonality there. And so, out of that assessment came the recommendations and it’s from the recommendations that we have this awesome project, actually we should call it a program because, you know, projects have a start and an end.  But it is absolutely exciting because our students will get to benefit in ways that previously they were not even imagining.”


The idea, according to Minister of State, Dr. Louis Zabaneh, is to increase the enrollment of students in high school.  By meeting the expenses for them, it should make life easier, particularly where attendance and performance are concerned.


Dr. Louis Zabaneh

“We are encouraging more students to be enrolled.  That is a big part of the objective, making sure that those students who dropped out because of the difficulties in their areas now have a friendly, safe environment for them to come back to school.  The parents won’t have to worry about how we pay for our children to attend these schools.”


Over at Excelsior High School, Principal Dawn Watters says that the feeding program goes a long way in encouraging attendance.


Dawn Watters

Dawn Watters, Principal, Excelsior High School

“Our clientele normally comes from the surrounding geographic areas and so they tend to benefit with respect to free education, right.  That is a part of the policy.  Uniform, they plan to be receiving a minimum of three uniforms and we can give them more on a need-by-need basis.  Ms. Domingo touched earlier on the feeding program and so they have the benefit of getting breakfast or lunch and administrators will decide which is more beneficial to them.  I know, in my particular school, breakfast is more beneficial to us because it has helped us with attendance and lateness to school, because they want to access the meal.”


Other schools in the pilot project include Gwen Lizarraga and Sadie Vernon high schools.  The initiative will be rolled out in these four institutions at the beginning of the 2022 academic year at the end of August. Isani Cayetano For News Five.

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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