In Belize, students typically graduate from primary school at the age of 12. What they do next depends on their family’s financial status. Those who can afford it send their children to high school. But in coastal fishing villages, poorer families often end up sending their sons out to fish with their fathers, and keeping their daughters at home to help manage the household.
In Belize, only one third of children from rural areas attend school.
The costs of high school is a widespread problem across rural Belize: it’s not only the fees for four years of high school, but other costs such as uniforms, books, chalk, and even the student’s chair and desk must all be paid for. Although there are scholarship schemes available to support families, only one third of children from rural areas attend school.
In Sarteneja, the largest fishing village in Belize and the operational base for Blue Ventures’ conservation and expeditions programme, we work closely with community members to deliver outreach activities to engage people with the environmental issues impacting the local area. We heard that families were struggling to support their children through secondary education, and saw an opportunity to help. We initiated our high school partial scholarship programme in 2018, funded by t-shirt sales to expedition volunteers and at events.
In the first year of the scholarship, we provided four promising students – Darwin, Driane, Isaac and Nicole – with scholarships to cover half of their tuition expenses and gain unique experience through an additional training programme provided by Blue Ventures.
Beyond the students’ school routine, the Blue Ventures training programme included sessions on public speaking, the Northern Belize Coastal Complex and Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, and the issues surrounding the red lionfish invasion. These sessions prepared them to discuss these topics with the public at upcoming outreach events.
The students’ first event, the Christmas Conservation Party that Blue Ventures hosts every year before Christmas break, soon arrived. They were initially too scared to speak when they saw the large crowd coming to our stand, but they soon overcame their fears and began to chat with the visitors, remembering the information they’d learned during the training. By the end of the day, all of the pupils had the opportunity to express themselves in public, and had clearly gained confidence. As the crowds departed, we all breathed a sigh of relief and satisfaction!
“Interacting with others and working as a team made me more motivated. I learned how to give a good presentation without being nervous and gain more experience. Yes, I would like to continue working with Blue Ventures because I want to help in any way I can and I have a lot to thank for this opportunity to continue my studies.”
Darwin Cuellar, second year high school student and 2018-2019 scholarship recipient.
We were extremely happy to see these students complete the school year, and take advantage of the opportunities and experiences our scholarship offered. The programme was also designed to increase their understanding of environmental issues, and perhaps spark a lasting interest in the natural world.
“The experience I had with Blue Ventures has inspired me to want to learn more about our ecosystem and about the invasive lionfish. This has made me decide to take Ecology when I graduate and move on to further my studies at the University of Belize.”
Driane Perez, fourth year high school student and 2018-2019 scholarship recipient.
Our goal was to play a small part in helping these four students realise their potential. While they continue with their school careers, we now welcome another four students into the scholarship for 2019-2020 and look forward to diving back into training.
For more information, contact Dianeri Cabrera
To help more students realise their potential, donate here