By Jem Smith
A donation of Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits and sanitization stands were handed over to the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Friday, June 4. The items, which were donated through the efforts of the US Embassy in Belize and the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) through United States Agency for International Development (USAID), come at an opportune time as schools have begun their phased restart of face to face learning. Some 350 schools have been approved for the phased reopening which will span over the next few months. It has been more than a year since students last sat in classes, so, students along with parents, teachers, and the like, can now breathe a sigh of relief as schools head back to some level of normalcy. Still, the safety of the students, teachers, and everyone else must come first. The donation of these kits and stands, is one step towards safety being ensured.
Schools benefiting from this particular donation are St. Martin’s De Porres, St. John’s Vianney, Calvary Temple, and James Garbutt, all primary schools in Belize City. There will be more donations to be made especially through UNICEF. Alison Parker, UNICEF Representative in Belize, says that there is currently a 5-year cooperation between UNICEF and the Government of Belize. While we have nearly come to the end of that 5-year cooperation, Parker says that it is just one of the many initiatives, some of which the US Government will be an integral part of. Their support comes extensively, and has been greatly heightened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Parker, it was recognized that there was a great need for the resumption of schools which not only provide a place for learning but also a place for the development of social skills and from where some children get their only meal for the day.
Students, teachers, parents, and others have faced extreme difficulties over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are just now getting back into a sense of normalcy. This most recent donation is only a small part of the commitment of the US Government’s support to Belize in its COVID-19 efforts to build better and safe environments for children and everyone else. Keith Gilges, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy, says that their course of work over the past year to assist children has greatly changed. COVID-19 has become one of the greatest public health dangers that we have seen in modern times, transforming just about every aspect of life. For this reason, decision makers have the task of making better not only for themselves but for those who depend on them, the children. Children should be able to return to cleaner and adapted environments, including schools.
To support COVID-19 Efforts, grants have been given through USAID to UNICEF to provide supplies, to collect pertinent data, and to host public awareness campaigns on the prevention and management of COVID-19.
By Jem Smith