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Belizean students at Sacred Heart Primary School (Photo: belize.com)

IDB loan to aid Belizeans affected by COVID-19 school closures

Belizean students at Sacred Heart Primary School (Photo: belize.com)

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on Monday approved an amendment to the term of the Education Quality Improvement Program II loan that will assist school communities in Belize to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The modification broadens the existing scope of the operation, and will support primary and secondary schools in the shift to a hybrid education model with a mix of remote and face-to-face learning, and with the grant source of financing the integration of migrant students through multicultural education,” an IDB press release outlined.

Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow and Country Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Dr Cassandra T Rogers, on January 27, 2020, signed an agreement to implement a US$10-million loan to improve the quality and gender equity of education at the primary and secondary levels in the Central American country. (Photo courtesy of IDB)

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Belize, which occasioned the closure of schools, there has been an unprecedented disruption to the education system. Across the world the closure of schools will contribute to an increase in dropout rates with important economic impacts, according to the hemispheric bank.

In the case of Belize, the IDB estimates that in the absence of quality remote and hybrid education, a four-month school closure would translate into a learning loss of about five per cent and a net loss of US$243 million over the working life of affected children.

“Additionally, large, and sudden migration inflows from Central American countries represent an important development challenge to Belize as it is impacting [the] quality of public services and social inclusion. In the quest to ensure education for all, the Ministry of Education Youth Sports and Culture of Belize allows migrant children’s enrolment in education regardless of nationality or migratory status,” the release said.

Inter-American Development Bank (Photo: Devex)

“However, as schools are becoming more diverse and multicultural, language barriers and differences in academic performance between migrant and Belizean students challenge integration,” it continued.  

To address these challenges, the IDB-funded project will finance three areas.

First, inquiry- and problem-based learning in primary schools through remote and hybrid modalities, including the provision of e-learning devices. 

“In the quest to ensure education for all, the Ministry of Education Youth Sports and Culture of Belize allows migrant children’s enrolment in education regardless of nationality or migratory status.”

Second, a Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) School, and training of secondary education teachers in student-centred and gender-sensitive STEAM learning.

Third, multicultural education and intensive English language instruction for students whose first language is not English psychosocial support.  

The IDB pointed out that the programme should benefit 129 schools, 1,500 teachers and 27,600 students at the primary school level; and 100 STEAM teachers and 12,040 students at the secondary level. Also, at least 9,700 students and 100 teachers will receive technological education devices for hybrid education.

As part of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Education Quality Improvement Program II, some Belizean 9,700 students and 100 teachers will receive technological education devices for hybrid education. (Photo: e-Learning Jamaica)

The US$10-million loan and US$2.5-million grant will have a tenor of five years.