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Belize launches Garifuna Language in Schools Program

HighlightsBelize launches Garifuna Language in Schools Program

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 15, 2024

On April 12, Belize marked the 227th anniversary of Garifuna Survival Day, commemorating the historic arrival of the Garifuna people on the shores of Honduras in 1797 after their exile by the British.

Since its inception in 1981, the National Garifuna Council (NGC) has worked tirelessly to uphold the survival of the Garifuna identity, including building schools, museums, and a radio station.

This year, the NGC, in collaboration with the Battle of the Drums Secretariat, launched the Garifuna Language in Schools Program on April 11, at a ceremony held at the Holy Family R.C. School in Hopkins Village.

“Our ancestors must be beaming with pride and in content, delight and cheering us on,” commented Darius Avila, president of the Battle of the Drums Secretariat.
Initially conceptualized in the summer of 2013, the initiative’s first rollout was called the “Garifuna Language and Arts and Craft in Schools Program.”

“We must underscore the significance of preserving our cultural heritage, particularly through the transmission of our ancestral language to future generations. Our dedication to reclaiming Garifuna is paramount, recognizing that the survival of our language hinges upon its transmission to our children,” shared the president of the National Garifuna Council, Sheena Zuniga.

The initiative has already garnered strong support from various sectors, including the Catholic local management of schools, the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MoECST).

“I always seek to make that linkage of the power of the Garifuna experience [and] the impact it has on the rest of our country. It’s not just an intangible heritage of say, Central America or the Caribbean or just Belize or Honduras and Guatemala; it’s of humanity. And that’s something we all can be proud of here in Belize,” stated Minister of State in the MoECST, Hon. Louis Zabaneh.

The ceremony was mainly led in the Garifuna language and included presentations by students from various primary schools which have already implemented the Program. Also in attendance was the Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia.

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