Night School


From left, Mr Earl, Ms Florence, Ms Ruby, and me. We are practicing our multiplication facts.

Last spring Ms Candi attended a roundtable that contained representatives of the Ministry of Education, the University of West Indies, Restore Belize and several other agencies that are concerned about the people of Belize City.  At that roundtable the Belize Friends School was asked if it would consider offering classes for adults that would lead to a primary school certificate.

It has become the standard for employment in Belize, particularly in the City, for an applicant to have a primary school certificate.  There are many adults who did not complete primary school and do not have a certificate.

We chose to try it.  We advertised on TV and on posters placed throughout the city during the summer.  When August 31 arrived, the first day of class, we had exactly zero applicants.  We decided to be a little patient.  We now have had 4 students register and 3 of them are attending classes from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Monday through Thursday. This fall term will go until November 18.

Each of our students had completed Standard 3 which is about US Grade 4/5.  Each of them dropped out because they were not having great success in school.  Their average reading and math levels are about grade 2/3/4. We promised them that it didn’t matter. We would take them where they were and help them progress.

I tried to make it plain that they would earn their primary school certificate when they could read and do math at a Standard 6 level. Standard 6 is the last year before High School.  Students who complete our program and wish to do so may take the PSE (Primary School Exam).  In addition, students who complete our program will be accepted into GED programs at Gwen Lizarra High School or the University of West Indies if they wish to continue their studies.

Two of our students have been sent to us by their employer, the Department of Human Services, to earn their certificates so that they may continue to be employed.  One of those students would really like to continue on to high school.

Ruby showed up first, then Florence, and then Earl.  Ruby is pretty good at math but really struggles reading.  Florence reads ok but really struggles at math. Earl is not as good as Ruby at math and not as good as Florence at reading.  Lucky for me, the teacher, they are close enough together that I can give them the same assignments and we can teach the same concepts at the same time.

Ruby has attendance issues.  So does Earl, but it’s not his fault. He works as a security officer and if someone else doesn’t show up they call him.  When that happens he stops by the school and picks up the papers we are working on that evening.  Florence is here every time the doors are open. She works hard and is making progress.

I have tried to be straightforward with them so that they know the certificate will be granted only when the necessary skill levels are achieved and that missing class just slows their progress.  It occurs to me that it may be time to re-emphasise that.


Ms Florence working with her multiplication table flash cards.

I know that teachers are not supposed to have favorites but it’s a lot easier to like someone who come to class every time.  Florence’s story is interesting. I asked her where she lived and she said Punta Gorda which is way down south. She works in the city because that is where she could find a job. She lives in a room of a house on the far southwest side of the city and works at the homeless shelter.

She is married but shortly after they got married her husband went to the states to try to find work. He is a member of the NYPD.  I asked her if she planned to move there or whether he was expecting to return to Belize. She said he was expecting to return.  I wonder. She is a wonderful young lady. I wish her the very best.

What about the future?  We are hoping that our current students will be successful enough in our school to spread the word to people that they know.  We’ll see. Second semester starts in January.



This ‘n’ That

There are things happening here in Belize. This post attempts to catch you up a little.


A sunrise photo I took on one of my morning jog/walks last week.


Class sections

We always have a very wide variety of skills here at Friends School but this year is exceptional.  Ms Candi and Ms Darcel have divided the school into 4 sections: Advanced, Prep, Review, and Remedial. We normally have Prep and Review, but we have 3 students who are far ahead of the others–and we will have 4 as soon as Nixon learns English.  So they are in one group.  On the other end of the spectrum, we have 4 students who we are applying to have tested for learning difficulties.  Three of those are returning students from last year.  And we have our typical Prep (one year) and Review (two year) students.

Enrollment We had 19 enrollees on the day school started. Then we gained two, then we lost one. (Brandon decided to accept his spot at Global Outreach) So then we were 20.  This week we were notified that Anthony, who is one of our ‘learning difficulties’ students and was tested a year ago, was being moved to Cadets.  Today is his last day. That put us back down to 19.  Then, just this morning, a father came in to register his son who will start on Monday.  And so it goes.  (The goal is still 25+.)

Alternative to Violence Project  We had made arrangements for Ms Becky Barber and Mr Andrew Dawson to hold an AVP workshop for our school for 3 days this week. On Monday Ms Becky came to begin the workshop and Mr Dawson did not. We decided to go ahead.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (today) in the afternoon from 1:00pm to 3:00 pm, Ms Becky did an absolutely wonderful job of leading a workshop for our students and teachers.  (Mr Tench also did a great job translating for Nixon.)

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Ms Candi and Ms Darcel are taking classes at Galen university. There was some group work that needed to be done and our office is air-conditioned. Later in the evening there were even more of them crammed in that little space. The study session went from about 5:30pm to 7:30pm in preparation for a debate on Saturday. The photo was taken with a very wide angle lens–those of you who have actually sat in this office will understand that there really isn’t this much room in the room.


Ms Candi is hidden behind the girl on the far left and you can just barely see Ms Darcel hidden behind the water cooler on the right.

thisnthat-5Expo This is the month in Belize when there are many activities referred to as “September Celebrations.”  One part of that is the Expo. Imagine large tents set up on the campus of the local technical college with a vendor or two in each tent.  You can buy everything from pizza or barbecue to cell phones to trucks to groceries to books to, well you get the idea.  I thought those of you from Indiana might just enjoy this display of Lucas Oil products in the Universal Hardware tent.  Ask me sometime about the Photon (brand name) pick-up truck sold by Universal Hardware, made in China with a Cummins diesel engine and a German transmission.


Paul waiting to read the chart.


We were to arrive at 9:00 so we did. This is taken about 9:45 before any of us got in to see the doctor.

Optometrist We recognized that some of our students may need vision testing. Belize Council for the Visually Impaired is a non-profit that coordinates with the Rotary to provide glasses for those who cannot afford them otherwise.

We took 5 students. Three of them need glasses and one of them needs to be seen by another doctor. (One boy has no vision problems.)

We are scheduled to take 9 more next Wednesday.  Remember that “student services” line item we put in the budget last year?  It’s being put to use.

Thanks for taking the time to get caught up.  I appreciate it.

Finding An Interpreter

Nixon is the oldest student in our school. He moved from Honduras to Belize to live with his mom and sisters. He is a smart, hard working,15 year old young man who speaks only Spanish. We got him because no one else would take him.

He doing great in math and learning a little English each day but so far knows only a few words.  Next week we are going to have an ‘AVP-mini’ in the afternoons at Friends School.  The Alternatives to Violence Project teaches ways to respond to conflict and even to help reduce the occasion for conflicts in the first place. It is a highly interactive workshop atmosphere and I was concerned that Nixon be able to fully participate.

I asked Ms Darcel and Ms Candi if they knew someone who was bilingual who could interpret from 1-3 pm for three days next week. No came to mind but they said they would think about it.  I was almost ready to go down to the market and see if any of the hispanic vendors was comfortable enough with English to act as an interpreter when a woman came in the office.  After she concluded her business with Ms Candi, I asked her if she knew anyone who could interpret, explaining our situation.

Out of the blue I heard, “We have someone!”  I turned and looked at Ms Maggie, our secretary and bookkeeper.  She said, “Mr. Frank can do it.”

“What?” I’m sure I sounded surprised, “Mr. Frank is bi-lingual?”  Turns out that he is fluent in Spanish. He has since spoken with Nixon and will be glad to work as his interpreter. Amazing.

(For those of you who are not as familiar with our situation, Mr Frank lives across the street, has been a long-time friend of the school and is currently our school board president. He is a retired weatherman here in Belize. Ms. Maggie, his wife, is our secretary/bookkeeper.)