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.
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.