The U.S. government, through U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), delivered a new school building to the San Pedro Government School, in Belize’s Corozal district, to support the return to classes and improve the quality of education, the U.S. Embassy said in a March 1, 2022 statement.
The project, carried out under SOUTHCOM’s humanitarian and civil assistance initiative Beyond the Horizon, cost $435,000 and included three classrooms, toilets, an elevated water tank, and a ramp connecting the new facilities to existing structures, the Embassy said.
“Before, the building was in deplorable conditions […]. It had neither the quality nor the basic standards to teach classes there. SOUTHCOM gave us new facilities,” Abner Bobadilla, director of the San Pedro school, told Belize’s Love FM. “Belize has already benefited from Beyond the Horizon on four occasions.”
Bobadilla said that the facilities will also benefit students with special needs. “It’s an inclusive language facility. The building is comfortable […], really great, and this will allow us to teach our program’s curriculum in an intimate and friendly environment, in line with each specific educational need,” he said.
The Belizean Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology (MOECST) encourages children with disabilities to attend regular schools. Only 30 percent of these children receive evaluations in some districts due to limited resources, UNESCO says on its website.
During the handover ceremony for the new school building, MOECST Chief Executive Officer Dian Castillo-Maheia thanked U.S. citizens for their generosity, the U.S. Embassy said. “Their contribution will positively impact the children of this community for many years,” she said.
“The United States is a proud supporter of Belize’s efforts to get students back to face-to-face learning […],” Adam Benz, public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Belize, said. “This donation […] is an investment in the future of Belize’s youth. It reflects the United States’ commitment to democracy, diversity, and equity.”
In addition to the donation in Corozal, the U.S. government is working closely with the Belizean government on media literacy and youth programs.
On March 9, the U.S. embassies in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago announced the joint launch of an innovative virtual program for young writers called Fact Check: Critical Thinking Journalism for Youths.
“One of the fundamental challenges of the information age is protecting the integrity of truth. Youth are the future custodians of truth and democracy, and it is imperative they are trained on how to assess the integrity of information,” Leyla Moses-Ones, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Belize, said. Fifty young people took part in the training initiative.
Traditionally, the United States and Belize have had close and friendly relations, the U.S. Department of State says on its website. As such SOUTHCOM is erecting yet another new school building, this one at the San Antonio Government School, in Corozal. The new educational facilities will be completed in April 2022, the Embassy said.