BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 10, 2020– Recently, the Government of Belize was paying keen attention to the spike of COVID-19 cases in the neighboring countries, particularly Mexico and Guatemala, with which Belize shares land borders. According to Reuters, as of today, June 10, Guatemala has 8,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and there have been 316 deaths, while Mexico has 129,184 confirmed cases and there have been 15,093 deaths.
With the opening of pre-schools, and primary and secondary schools, scheduled for August 10, the Government of Belize is faced with a very real dilemma regarding the republic next door. The question of what to do about Guatemalan children who come across the border to attend school in Belize, is a question that was not quite answered by Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber, on Monday.
Speaking on the government’s webcast Ask the Experts, Hon. Faber remarked, “It is a serious concern for our ministry, although it is not a matter for our ministry alone. In fact, I’m told that over the course of this week, there was a meeting held with all the necessary ministries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Immigration folks, and our Ministry, to determine what would happen in cases like these.”
Faber said that there are a number of Guatemalan students who are enrolled in our high schools, and that that has been allowed to happen for many years.
“…But, of recent times, especially whenever things flare up with the Belize/Guatemala issue, this concern is raised, and there are those who believe that we should not allow Guatemalan students to engage in our schools at all.
“However, as a matter of confidence-building measures, this has been touted as something good, and so, we have allowed some of this to happen,” Faber pointed out.
The Minister of Education added, “The question of what will happen when CXC — CSEC — starts on July 13th? There are some 4th form students who live in Guatemala who have to take that exam. And if our borders remain closed at that time, how is it that they are expected to come across to take these exams and engage, if a new school year starts. These are questions that, if left strictly up to the Ministry of Education, we would have our position, and our position would be clear. But, there is a greater issue with all of this, those very same relationships that we have bilaterally — Belize and Guatemala, trying to build confidence and all of that. So, I wouldn’t want to pronounce on it just yet. All I’ll say is that these matters are in discussion. The relevant ministries and players are discussing it to come up with a conclusion as where we’re going to go with such students.”
With the amount of COVID-19 cases in Guatemala, it remains to be seen if the Barrow government will risk the health of Belize’s children by allowing Guatemalan children to enter Belize’s schools, or if the Ministry of Education will come up with a virtual learning plan in order to not deprive our neighbor’s children their human rights of getting an education.
Feature photo: Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education