Letter to Minister Faber, Belize - November Plans

Letter to Minister Faber, Belize - November Plans
Thu, 11/22/2012 - 11:12

Dear Minister Faber,
Greetings from Alberta, Canada where winter his upon us.  We dream of the warm sea breezes in Belize...

The purpose of this correspondence is 3 fold:        1. Two invitations      2. Information and updates on Belize Literacy Program      3. Internet Access – we need your help! 

1.  We would like to invite you to a meeting on Monday, November 26, 7:30 am – 9:00 am at the Radisson Hotel in Belize City.  A light breakfast will be served.   We will be meeting with Monitors from CRCID (Government of Canada, International Development) who have provided funding support along with Rotary Clubs and The Rotary Foundation to the Rotary Belize Literacy Program.  These monitors are interested in learning more about the program impacts that we have been involved with for the past 5 years in Belize as well as to meet you (as well as Chris, David and Carol) and learn first had what this program has meant to Belize teachers and students.  The monitors Earle Newton, (Saskatchewan) and Robbi Howlett (Ontario) will be touring Belize and our pilot sites as well as meeting with others who have been involved in the professional development, curriculum development/implementation components of our project.

Note: The funding for the first phase of this program is coming to an end and we will be doing reviews and writing final reports in coming months.  There are 3 teams of facilitators working in Belize with your staff in November and early  December:
• November 12-16th workshops on “learning with technologies” a continuation of summer workshops with teachers, but this time a focus on staff and leaders in District Education Centres (see attached);
• November 26-30th workshops in 4 districts on literacy and digital literacy – again, how can emerging technologies support literacy development; please have a look at the following links listed below:
• December 5-12 th primary science and mathematics workshops for learning coaches and curriculum officers.

In addition, there are clubs in Rotary District 5370 ( Alberta, NWT, Saskatchewan, British Columbia) who have ‘adopted schools in Belize and are lending a hand in various ways; 6 playgrounds have been built and 3 more are being shipped in December for Feb./March installation.  Upwards of $1,000,000 has been spent on this project.  A group of 14 plus a high school student from our community will be working with a school in Cayo – fixing windows, doing repairs, building garden boxes and bringing smiles and soccer ball.  We are bringing representatives from 2 clubs who will visit two schools for future ‘adoption’

Another invitation – Wednesday, November 28 at 12:15 at the Radisson.  I will be making a presentation on Digital Literacy; Digital Citizenship to the Rotary Club of Belize and would invite you as my guest and I am sure the club would be thrilled to have you in attendance.

2. Help Needed!
As you know, our project has attempted to support 6 schools with acquiring the necessary technology to begin to integrate technology into teaching and learning.  The six schools are:
a. Cayo, Faith Nazerine School
b. Toledo,  Peter Claver School
c. Belize City, All Saints (note: new pilot school – to receive computers January 2013 – Principal needs to be notified)  Salvation Army was original school
d. Corozal, Mary Hill
e. Orange Walk, Louisiana Govt. School
f. Stann Creek, Christ the King

There have been a variety of challenges but they are slowly being overcome by the schools themselves.  We abandoned the original plan to hard wire classrooms when the educational world changed dramatically a few years ago and schools were installing wireless networks and adopting mobile tools for learning; this is clearly the path we believe is right for Belize. We have also provided some tools to schools piloting the new math/science curriculum as well as DEC’s for curriculum officers to use in professional development (see attached list)  we will be providing 25 netbooks, a projector and speakers to All Saints School in January 2013. 

Now for the issue...the pilot schools are constantly being challenged – see notes below from Rotarian Aki Fukai, San Ignacio Rotary Club and Cynthia Reece

“Problem at  Peter Claver not working as before is because BTL decrease the bandwidth of the internet to 512K from 2MB, which means that only up to 5 PC can work at one time and if someone is doing a big download, everyone is affected.  This requires Minister level of intervention to correct. “

“We are bringing new laptops on Friday this week to Peter Claver Primary as part of the Rotary Belize Literacy Program.  Is there anything the MOE can do regarding access to the web for this pilot school?  I understand from Aki Fukai that the bandwidth at Peter Claver was lowered to 512k from BTL and the school has quit using it all together.  Internet access is such a large part of the success of this long term program. Can the bandwidth get moved back up to the 2 MG, and if so when? It would be wonderful if the teachers could access the internet to fully use these new machines and their training they had this summer.  I suspect there are WIFI challenges on campus as well.  It seems to be the same issue for all of the pilot schools, one per district, except for Louisiana Government in Orange Walk who has added some routers of their own. “

            What can be done to ensure these schools have dependable internet access? (and of course we are concerned about all schools and communities in Belize)

3.  For your information, Dr. Aird and our committee in D5370 has just submitted another grant application CIDA (through Rotary) for 2013-2016.  We are very committed to continue to build on this project.   There are 4 major areas of emphasis and we are excited about the possibilities for this $1,500,000 US application: (application is available)

1. Teacher Education
2. Digital Literacy, Learning and citizenship
3. Adopt a school
4. Creating safe communities (playgrounds, play leadership, libraries...)

Before we can invest any more in technology and learning initiatives, our committee feels strongly that the internet access issues must be addressed.  How can we help?  What is the short term/long term plan?  This situation has definitely had a serious impact on project results and success.  There have been thousands of professional hours devoted to this program and opportunities to partner via web (webinars for continued professional development, on-line coaching and mentoring; on-line meetings...) are available now which would substantially reduce many of your operating costs and provide teachers and MOE officers with much needed support and economical efficiencies.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding our partnership and work together...hopefully, we will be able to meet in November to discuss further.  Some great work is happening in schools...