Photo: (l-r) Roberto Suarez, Executive Secretary of CECC- SICA and Hon. Dr. Louis Zabaneh – pro-temp president CECC- SICA
Hon. Dr. Louis Zabaneh, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology, assumes SICA’s CECC pro-temp presidency for the next 6 months
by Marco Lopez
BELMOPAN, Thurs. Jan. 19, 2023
This morning, a ceremony was held in Belmopan and virtually across SICA member states to facilitate the transfer of the pro-temp presidency of the Central American Educational and Cultural Coordination (CECC) officially to Belize. For the next 6 months, the Ministry of Education in Belize will work and partner with colleagues from across the other SICA member states to advance in areas of education and culture across those countries. Hon. Dr. Louis Zabaneh, Minister of State in the MOE, who will take up the pro temp presidency for the next 6 months, said during the conference this morning that along with supporting the initiatives already in place and being implemented by CECC, Belize will also focus on seven key areas during its tenure as the pro-temp president of the SICA organ.
Included in these areas of focus is an investigation of the intersection of Education, Culture, and Technology, and how data gathered can be used to facilitate better higher-learning engagement. Strengthening ties with SICA is also a goal of Belize’s presidency. Partnerships among education centers of excellence among member states will also take place under Belize’s tenure, with UB’s language center creating a partnership with other institutions in SICA member countries. Also highlighted as an enhanced focus area is the plight of Afro-descendants and Indigenous populations across member states, and how remedying the longstanding exclusion of those groups will further advance the collective goals at SICA. During Belize’s pro-temp presidency, the team hopes to also strengthen its partnership with the Organization of American States; and carry out regional research on the positive impact of technological advancement in the areas of education and culture.
In October 2022, SICA and CECC launched the Curriculum in Emergency in the SICA Region working document. The publication is to be used as a guide for rethinking curricula across member states.
CEO of the Education Ministry, Dian Maheia said that SICA countries have already begun their work to revise the curriculum, with a lot of work on school safety already being executed.
“You all will know that here in Belize we have been doing our own work, on revising our curriculum and focusing on competency learning; those are all really efforts to recoup learning lost,” CEO Maheia said. “A third round of consultation is being held today and tomorrow with teachers as a part of our curriculum reform locally,” she further said.
Data from the World Bank, in a study released last June, suggests that today’s students from Latin America and the Caribbean will be impacted by a 12% decrease in lifelong learning due to the learning loss resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Impact on literacy — reading and writing competency — has been significantly impacted, the World Bank data suggested.
New pro-temp president of CECC-SICA, Hon. Zabaneh, said in his remarks that during the country’s presidency, they will focus on resiliency and “building back better.”
“We want to ensure that what we create is something that we would have learned lots of lessons (on) from the pandemic, and be able to create an education system and a cultural system environment that is much more resilient, that serves our people better, and that we are learning from each other on what works in different countries,” Hon. Zabaheh said.
And they are banking on science, technology, and innovation as ways of hopefully salvaging the educational progress of today’s students and steering them back on a path to competency in their various grade levels.
“Science, technology, and innovation have proven to be an important factor; whenever humanity has a crisis – we see that it is science, technology, and innovation that is able to address those challenges, find solutions to problems, and be able to take us to the next level. So, we are encouraging a rigorous research agenda throughout the region in which our national universities engage with each other,” Hon. Zabaneh said.
He shared that the “curriculum revolution” work that has been ongoing in Belize has been well received by fellow member states in the CECC-SICA region and in CARICOM.
Besides the synergies in education – on the cultural front, Belize has also put in focus the need to increase awareness of the plight of Afro-descendants and Indigenous peoples living within the member countries. These so-called “minority groups” have been long oppressed due to the social ills hardwired within our political systems within member states.
Hon. Zabaneh shared that he was pleased to see the increased focus in this area by CECC-SICA during his first meeting.
“It is recognized that our governments need to do much more to address the need of the members of those groups, because traditionally they have not received the services or even the respect so that they could attain an equal quality of life as everybody else,” Hon. Zabaneh said. He explained that specific programs are in place to foster a wider understanding, and recognized that in many cases these groups are the lifeblood of our tourism sector, for example, and they themselves do not receive any substantial benefits from that contribution.
“So, these are things that the region is very serious about making interventions that will alleviate those problems arising from how things have a functioned in the past,” said Hon. Zabaheh.
In addition to correcting the social problems, historical wrongs perpetrated against those natives of member states will also be looked at and addressed.
“The other area, where over time, and in history, the artifacts, all the valuables that have been there have been plundered and taken away from our countries, and so there is also an effort to bring back those treasures to our countries in the region,” Hon. Zabaneh said.
Echoing this, Roberto Suarez, Executive Secretary of SICA-CECC stated, “We need to work hard in the region to get all the challenges that we have, because otherwise, we can’t talk about, we have good education, and good rights for everyone if we don’t guarantee that we don’t have discrimination in those communities.”