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Jan 28, 1998

New initiative targets primary school dropouts

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You see them almost everywhere: sometimes peddling newspapers, selling tamales door to door, or just hanging out. They are kids who should be in school but for a number of reasons are not. Today some concerned groups organized to try and do something about it.

The Plan is a five year project called Stay in School Jamm. The brainchild of the Evangelical D- Revelation band, it promises to motivate children to study hard, attend school regularly, be on time and to pray daily. The programme emerged from the band’s concern about the alarming high number of primary school dropouts. And while the plan is to encourage children through music and talk, the band and several organizations, will also stimulate community members to help sponsor a child’s education.

Paul Flowers, Public Relations Officer, D – Revelation Band

Let us stop saying, Jackie that the programmes are not going well and nobody the do this, well when you, your ownself can start by buying exercise books, by buying a little uniform, a little tennis that goes a long way.

Besides promoting Volunteerism, the band as well will be hosting concerts for each school interested in having them positively entertain their students. The band members, who are mostly teachers themselves, will be available to conduct talks at the schools on a range of issues. As to why our school children are sometimes seen more on the streets than in the classroom, studies reveal that its a primarily a problem of finance.

Carol Babb, Member, Belize District Education Council

The problem of Truancy exist and I believe it has also doubled because if you look on the streets, more and more you see children on the streets and more and more they are complaining, not being able to come to school because of some financial reason.

Jacqueline Woods, reporting

Three years ago, the Belize District Education Council conducted a survey to see just how many of our primary school students are out of school. That 1995 study showed that over three hundred of our young students are absent everyday. Today the problem has escalated, with forty percent of our school children out of school and ten percent not even enrolled.

One reason why this problem may have been allowed to skyrocket is that presently there is only one Truant officer for the thirty eight primary schools in Belize City.

Carol Babb

Definitely we need more Truant officers. I believe if we get more Truant officers on the streets, we could get the children back on the streets and find out what is the problem, Why are they on the streets and try to find ways of helping them stay in school. There is only one Truant officer in Belize City because the two other officers have been retrenched.

Jacqueline Woods

Q: Why are you not in school?

Ernesto, 12 years old

Cause she no have no money to pay and they want we to pay ten dollars each.

He is twelve year old Ernesto, and since September of last year he has been begging on the streets of Belize City.

Ernesto

I go bout and ask people for money. Sometimes I help people to. So you hustle on the streets? Yes mam.

But its not only hustling young Ernesto has been doing along with his friends who are also out of school.

Ernesto

Sometime they sleep out, sometime they go and thief. When we go out so all a we, they tell we wait till everybody go sleep the night, and then they want to go bruk into the chiney shop. They mi bruk in there a night. They walk bout and they go anywhere they want. Sometimes they go way the Hattieville to hustle where the airport the way there they go and they hop truck.

Therese, Single parent

Well as I say, it is mostly the finance that I can’t really send her. With my ability I wish that I can send her to school because she is smart and she has the talent and everything you know.

Since late last year, Therese who is a single parent of six young children has been struggling to send her children to school.

Therese

Well so far, because then if you go and see it right now, thirty five dollars is barely enough for the food, what do you think about the footwears and etc. with them things and so I buy. Well September when school open, I have to buy a cheap bag, because I couldn’t afford a bag for the little girl.

It is this kind of problem The Stay In School Project hopes to address. But regardless of the optimism about D – Revelations’ five year plan, it will take a real commitment and effective proposals by the Government to bring Belize’s lost generation back from the streets and into the classrooms.

The “Stay in School Jamm” Project will be officially launched on March 6th, Children’s Day.


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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