RESTORE Belize, as a part of its EWS Programme, closed off its Education Month activities with its fourth annual Readathon Competition and Award Ceremony. In February of 2018 the Ministry of Education launched literacy as a national priority, and in that vein, an essay component for children from Std. 2 and 3 was included this year.

The competition is a collaborative effort between RESTORE Belize, the Ministry of Education, the National Library Service and Information System, Private Belize Adventure and all partners played an important role in preparing schools with books and materials leading up to the competition.

 

The Readathon and Essay Competition spanned weeks where students were encouraged to read as much as they could and complete book reports and essays. On the day of the ceremony, children from the nine participating schools eagerly took their seats at the Leo Bradley Library Compound to find out the results.

 

The program included speakers from RESTORE Belize, the National Library Service, the Ministry of Education, and the Football Federation of Belize as well as presentations by Stella Maris School. The National Library Service came out with energy to entertain the children with plays before taking them on a tour of the library.

 

Our Education Consultant, Dr. Rose Bradley emphasized the importance of the event as a way to encourage reading. She said “We encourage the kids to come to the library check out books and read as many books as possible…  The library actually went into the schools dropped off books once every two weeks. We asked the kids to read the books and check them out. They read the books. They also completed a book report which they had to submit and so we then looked a the book report and evaluate and that is how we determine who the winner is."

Many of the students read up to 20 books, and all participating students were issued certificates. The Readathon was separated into two categories: Std. 1, 2, and 3, and Std. 4 and 5. In the first category, std. 3 students Siah Straughan from Queen St. Baptist, Haley Sanchez from Central Christian, and Chloe Sanchez from Trinity Methodist captured 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, respectively.

   

In the second category, Jada Logan from Buttonwood Bay Nazarene, Arling Enamorado from Central Christian, and Jennalyn Young from Queen St. Baptist placed top three.

   

The Essay Competition served as a preparation for BJAT with participants from Std. 2 and 3. Chloe Sanchez placed first, capturing her second prize for the day. Eddie Hernandez of Central Christian and Carlos Pabon of Buttonwood Bay Nazarene Primary placed second and third, respectively.

  

We extend our warmest congratulations to the participants and look forward to the essays and engagement that next year will bring!

May 18th is International Teacher’s Day – a day to celebrate those at the heart of the educational system. This year the Ministry of Education pulled out all the stops in organizing a full day of activities at the newly re-opened Civic Center in Belize City.

The day kicked off with opening ceremonies and items from Praise Band and St. Ignatius R.C School. In a nod to music week, teachers were treated to performances from “Soca Queen” Ernestine Carballo and Supa G Entertainment. Teachers were even able to indulge in school yard games such as izzy dizzy. While things were kicking off on the court, booths were set up along the corridor surrounding the perimeter. Innovation in schools was especially highlighted by these knowledge-sharing hubs with information on social enterprise by Ocean Academy and Dalile. Booths on our EWS and CAL’s programmes, on the Out of School Initiative report, the National Library Service, and other services in Belize were set up as well.

      

Teacher’s day is the highlight of Education Month in Belize, and the month’s activities centered on this year’s theme of “Literacy: A Ladder to Learning and Earning.” RESTORE Belize has been involved with key events this month including the Youth Innovation Challenge, through which high school students presented solutions for financial literacy, the 4th Biennial Teacher Education Conference, which drew in international, regional and local researchers and professionals to share knowledge on Early Childhood Education, and RESTORE Belize’s Readathon and Essay Competition, the award ceremony for which will be held on Thursday of this week.

   

RESTORE Belize is excited about the innovation in education that results from close collaboration with the Ministry of Education. More information on these efforts can be found at the Early Warning System and Literacy and Numeracy pages under the “programmes” section of our website.

Anyone who has been to family court can relate to the time, expense, and frustration that accompany long waiting periods in a drawn-out trial. To mitigate these difficulties, court-appointed family mediation has been recognized as a convenient, timely, and amicable alternative that helps to de-clog the system and ensure that resources are allocated prudently. This need is especially pressing outside of the Belize district, in which most services are focused.

  

 To assist in clearing the backlog of cases in family court and extend mediation services across the country, RESTORE Belize, through the Youth Violence Prevention Project, in collaboration with UWI Open Campus, Belize and the Supreme Court of Belize, coordinated and facilitated the training of diverse professionals from all corners of Belize to complete an intensive six-day course on family mediation.  

    

The course utilized techniques such as lectures, group discussions, and role-playing to train participants in mediation skills and build a commitment to ethical conduct, which they were expected to demonstrate. 

    

The 18 participants were sworn in today, and they join the 15 participants who were similarly funded and later sworn-in as family mediators at the start of 2017. The introduction of court-connected mediation into the Family Court promotes a culture of peace and allows for the efficient resolution of family disputes which affect children, adolescents and youth.

RESTORE Belize ended 2017 on a strong note after successfully completing a series of Round Table Discussions, held in partnership with UNICEF, on lessons learned from the Metamorphosis Programme. 

 

Many children in Belize live in neighborhoods where gang culture is prevalent. Exposure to armed violence affects children’s emotional and psychological wellbeing as well as their academic performance. This is compounded by other risk factors including poverty and trauma. TheMetamorphosisProgramme provides wrap around support services for high-risk male children and adolescents with the aim of building resiliency in the children and their families. Over the course of its five-year multidimensional implementation, the programme has served as a qualitative research with a flexible enough programme design to adapt to new challenges on a case by case basis.

 

The Round Table Discussions were held with CEO’s from key ministries, Technical Professionals in mental health, social work and youth service provision, and Educational Professionals. Each Round Table began with presentations on the guiding frameworks and theories underpinning the Metamorphosis Programme which include Domains of Well-Being, the Ecological Approach, and the Hierarchy of Human Needs. 

Counsellors and social workers presented their case studies which were based on first hand accounts of working with the Metamorphosis children. The Metamorphosis Team was faced with the very real effects of childhood neglect and violence manifested in the children physically, emotionally and academically. Many of the beneficiaries of the programme are discovered to have fundamental needs that are not being met, and while the case studies presented at the Round Table Discussions illustrated this, they also highlighted the hope that is sparked and the progress that is made when children are given the support and the opportunity to just be children.

The team also presented its findings on the roles of Trauma, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Resilience in the Metamorphosis experience.

Presentations from each of the three Discussions wrapped up with an overview of the challenges and lessons learnt from the programme such as the importance of flexibility in programme design for programmes such as these. An important finding was on the prevalence of trauma, its long term impact on the affected children and its effect on support service providers. Trauma also has implications in children’s educational performance and literacy. Additionally, the gap in mental health services, compared to the high level of need for such services, was highlighted. 

Of note, this study holds serious implications for policy interventions such as the importance of a multidimensional approach, the importance of linkages between interventions and the national response to citizen security, the need for knowledge sharing among programmes like Metamophosis, the need for capacity building in mental health, and the emphasis which should be placed on literacy programmes for high-risk children and their families. 

At the end of the presentations, discussions were held with the duty bearers who gave valuable input which acknowledged the importance of the study and its implications in similar programmes, the need for coordination across services and sectors, the need for greater budget allocation to mental health and social support services, and the importance of capacity building in education and social services to work with children living amidst gang violence. 

The full report can be accessed here.

The Computer Aided Learning Software, or CALS for short, is a tool to complement traditional instruction in literacy and numeracy while attempting to bridge the digital gap for primary school children. Last week we visited one of the 14 CALS sites currently receiving support from RESTORE Belize and were impressed by the fast gains in core reading skills of remedial English speakers.

 

The facilitator told us that getting that far that fast with the students was not easy. It took weeks of training and then months of playing around with the software along with many hours researching useful and engaging complementary activities before she started to see that level of result.

 

Before a teacher becomes a facilitator, he or she must first meet with a literacy expert to re-familiarize him or herself with fundamental English structures and their terminology as a prerequisite for understanding the CALS programme. The teacher then receives training on the software, learning how to set up and maintain the server as well as how to monitor students’ progress and set individual goals for them. This allows him or her to give an individualized experience to the students, reinforcing online lessons with relevant offline activities.

 

The classroom we visited was well decorated with sight words, graphic organizers and information on the writing process along with literary devices. These decorations are changed every month to reflect CALS lessons. When asked how the teacher copes with the added prep time she told us “If you don’t work, it doesn’t work… you just have to push the programme.”

 

And in her class, it has been proven to work with past students showing demonstrable progress over the course of two years. Moving forward, the facilitator has received a donation of books which she will incorporate into the students’ traditional English classes once they have completed the program. Additionally, the school will add 5 more computers which will allow up to 20 students at a time to use the software.

To find out more about the CALS programme read about our Literacy and Numeracy programme here.