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Sep 2, 1998

Thousands of children return to school

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The recently sworn in ministers of government may have been busy this week moving into their Belmopan offices… but they were not the only ones getting used to new desks. This morning Patrick Jones counted himself among the thousands of Belizean students starting a new term at school.

It’s a prayer that both teachers and students alike are hoping they can collectively fall back on to guide them through the next ten challenging months.

Primary school teachers in general, because of the maturity of their students, tend to settle into their routines more quickly in the early going. Their preschool counterparts on the other hand, have to first help the children make the transition from home to an alien environment. While for some children it goes rather smoothly …

Q: “Ryan, you like come da school?”

Ryan, Sunflower Preschool

(shakes head in the affirmative)

Q: “What you do ya da school?”

Ryan

“Paperwork.” (singing)“This is the day. This is the day at the Lord has made, at the Lord has made. We will rejoice. We will rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it. We will rejoice. We will rejoice and be glad in it. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Others need a little more time. Overall though, the teachers say that despite the tantrums and tears, no real harm is done.

Sherlett Slusher, Teacher, Pine Street Preschool

“I don’t think so because in life everybody have to have the time that they have to leave from home. So I don’t think the crying is a problem.”

Q: “So you believe they’re going to settle right in and eventually don’t want to go home?”

Sherlett Slusher

“Usually. Usually. Give them a week and you’ll see the difference in them.”

That difference may be greatly accelerated by the nature of the program in the kindergarten. While it’s mostly play-acting, Deseree Myvette of the Sunflower Preschool says there are real lessons to be learnt from the activities in the center.

Deseree Myvette , Principal, Sunflower Preschool

“It helps them to make friends and help them to cope when they go to primary school. They do physical play, story telling and get familiar with the different corners.”

Q: “You like come da school?”

Stefania, Sunflower Preschool

“Yes.”

Q: “What you do da school?”

Stefania

“ABC”

Q: “You know your ABC?”

Stefania

“Yes”

Q: “Say your ABC for me.”

Stefania

“A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V? Now I know my ABC, teacher, teacher, don’t lash me.”

Sherlett Slusher

“The child come in and they play until nine. And from nine o’clock we have a circle time where they get to mingle with each other, get to know the teacher better and get a spiritual infancy involved. And then from there we take them into the teacher’s lesson, the lesson that the teacher plans for the day. If it’s to let them know what the teacher’s name is, the name of the preschool, and things like that we do for this first week.”

While teachers in the pre-schools have their hands full trying to de-traumatize three and four-year-old boys and girls, those in the infant and middle divisions of the primary schools face a different set of challenges. This year, new subject areas, including Spanish and Music, are being introduced to the elementary curriculum.

Marlett Martinez, Teacher, St. Luke’s Methodist School

“I think it won’t be that difficult because what we’ll be starting off with would be the basics. Basically I think as my class teacher I have the basics covered, so I am comfortable with that. So long as we deal with the basics, I don’t think we will have a problem, because I think most teachers, if not all, have the basics covered, where Spanish is concerned. So I think we’ll be able to manage.”

But the excitement over the new subject areas is not only with the teachers. Some of it has already rubbed off on the students.

Dwayne, St. Luke’s Methodist School

“Very hard because I no know much bout Spanish.. I really wah learn Spanish.”

Q: “How important is it for you to know Spanish?”

Yaraselli, St. Luke’s Methodist School

“It’s important because when you go at a place, sometimes you have to know Spanish.”

Q: “You want to learn Spanish?”

Mark, St. Luke’s Methodist School

“Yes.”

Q: “Why?”

Mark

“Because when I go to Chetumal, I wahn talk Spanish fi know the prices.”

While both teachers and students have embraced the reality of Spanish in the classroom, Principal of St. Luke’s Methodist, Holda Neal says implementing a revamped curriculum is not the only adjustment they have to make.

Holda Neal, Principal, St Luke’s Methodist Upper School

“During the summer holiday, the school was burglarized twice and because I did not know some of the things that were lost, as the days go by the teachers are finding out that some of the things were stolen. When Miss Andrewin got into her class yesterday and the students were about to take their seats, it was then we realized that some chairs were stolen, so infrastructure will definitely be a problem.”

While the setback from crime may be temporary, the introduction of music in the lower primary school is anticipated to have a much more long term effect.

Suzette Dortch, Teacher, St. Martin De Porres School

“Well, I think on a whole, infant, the children they are younger and on a whole, music will help them in everything that they do because it’s inter-related with the curriculum on a whole and everything that infants do. I integrate music with it. For instance in religion they will sing, for Math they will sing their ABC, they will sing their 1-2-3 for P.E.. They will have a bit of music in Grammar, English, whatever. The music will be of interest for them.”

Q: “What’s your name?”

Denzel, St. Martin De Porres Primary School

“Denzel.”

Q: “Denzel, do you like music?”

“Denzel.”

“Yes.”

Kelsey, St. Martin De Porres Primary School

(singing)“I love Jesus. Yes I do. How about you? Yes I do.”

Q: “You like singing?”

Wasa, St. Martin De Porres Primary School

(shakes head in the affirmative)

Q: “Which song you like sing?”

Wasa

“Oh land of the free.”

Q: “Sing wah lee bit a it fi me.”

Wasa

(mumbled)“Oh land of the free?”

Patrick Jones for News Five.

Music classes at St. Martin de Porres and St. Luke’s Methodist are taught by former News Five reporter Julietta Burrowes. The Education Department reports that approximately fifty-four thousand Belizean children are currently enrolled in primary schools nationwide.


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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