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Aug 29, 2023

The P.C.C. Meets With Belize District Teachers

Classes were called off across Belize District, as hundreds of teachers converged in Belize City. The People’s Constitution Commission hosted its Teachers Constitution Education Forum inside the Saint Catherine Auditorium. The six-hour event saw several lectures on the Constitution of Belize, as well as a question and answer segment where teachers were given the opportunity to voice concerns directly to members of the commission. News Five’s Paul Lopez filed the following report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Close to two thousand teachers from across Belize District gathered inside the auditorium at Saint Catherine Academy today. It resembled a scene from a Belize National Teachers Union convention. That is because there were assembled for a teacher’s constitution education forum hosted by the People’s Constitution Commission.


Ruth Shoman

Ruth Shoman, President, Belize National Teachers Union

“This is It is not only historic, but it is critical that we do exercises like this. A constitution is a living document. Generations change, we have developed so many gaps along the way. And we don’t talk enough about our constitution. This is something that guides us every day, from the moment we’re born in this country. The constitution is what guides us and dictates what we are to do and not to do. But yet we don’t open the book to know what it is that really guides us.”

Ruth Shoman, the President of the Belize National Teachers Union, raised the fact that education does not appear as a right in the Constitution of Belize. She further noted that while most teachers take monies out of their own pockets on an annual basis to prepare classrooms, some countries allocate a percentage of their national budget to these types of expenses.


Ruth Shoman

“There are countries, for example, who in their national budget allocate a percentage of their budget to certain schools, certain national universities, and so those universities are well funded, and you will not find that the issues our teachers are facing in Belize today those teachers would be facing. So this is very important that our teachers understand that addressing the constitution directly impacts their finances, how the wallet or the purse will look. And being able to connect that is part of the process of education.”


And, during today’s education forum, an announcement was made that the People’s Constitution Commission will be spearheading national high school debates on the Constitution of Belize. Anthony Chanona, the Chairman of the People’s Constitution Commission, gave us the details.


Anthony Chanona

Anthony Chanona, Chairman, People’s Constitution Commission

“The Belize National Teachers Union is an important stakeholder, simply because they interact with over one hundred thousand of those young people, students, you know, the statistics show that sixty-two percent of our population is twenty-five years and younger. So that truly is the present and the future. And, because we’re heading into September and beyond, we’re trying to partner with the Ministry of Education to ensure that the teachers have a greater knowledge, more informed knowledge on the constitution that in turn they can participate in activities, in the schools, in the respective schools. One of the things that we will be doing, the minister will announce this, is we will be having high school national debates across the country, where the young people will be given questions on the constitution to be resolved as a way to create awareness, because, If we do nothing else in this process, we would hope, the Commission hopes, that its legacy is not ended with the final report, but having planted a seed of the importance of having a greater knowledge of your constitution.”


The keynote address was delivered by attorney Darrell Bradley. His presentation focused on the checks and balances contained within the constitution to prevent abuse of power by government officials.


Darrell Bradley

Darrell Bradley, Attorney-At-Law

“We have to look to the checks and balances that are equal in the constitution. For example, the vote, the electoral process, the public service commission, the independent constitutional commissions like the elections and boundaries commission and so forth. And we have to ensure that those bodies are strengthened, because when you have a parliamentary system, it creates, it has positives, but it also has negatives. The positives are that it creates a very decisive and a government that can act very quickly. The presidential system is more bifurcated and it’s more fragmented and promotes more consensuses. You can’t pass law without consensus. That it also has challenges, but when we deal with a parliamentary system, we have to be conscious in making sure the constitution is designed in such a way that they are very powerful, recognizable and distinct checks and balances that the political directorate cannot interfere with. Otherwise, we’re going to have so many realities that we see in our society.”


And, according to Shoman, good governance is an issue at the top of BNTU’s list of priorities when it comes to constitutional reform. In comparing an education forum like this to strike action, both of which give teachers an opportunity to speak their minds, Shoman says the two platforms are equally important.


Ruth Shoman

“Both are important. We will never undermine the power of a strike. That’s a part of what unionism is. This is important. This is where our individual voices can be heard through the survey. So, filling out those surveys is going to be very important to individualize our needs, our wants, and our demands. And so, to me, both are very equally important.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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