BELMOPAN, Belize – The Belize government says classes will resume on Monday for all schools, including those in the Belize District that are able to return safely following the passage of Hurricane Lisa last Wednesday.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MoECST) said it is the “only legal authority that can cancel or suspend classes”.
It said that other Belize District schools that have been impacted, the week of November 7 to 12 will serve as a transition week in preparation for a full return by November 14 except, of course, in extreme cases.
“Those schools that have been extensively impacted have already been in touch with the ministry, and various allowances for the additional days needed for cleaning and restoration have been granted.”
The authorities said that the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing has been providing “invaluable assistance” through a team that has been on the ground since Thursday, conducting structural assessments in accordance with the reports that have been provided to the MoECST by the principals.
“It has already been noted that repairs and reconstruction in some cases will take weeks. Teachers who have been severely impacted by the hurricane are asked to share their information,” the ministry said, adding that it is working with the Belize National teachers Union (BNTU) to prepare a list of affected teachers to ensure that they receive the necessary support and assistance.
“Those teachers are also asked to communicate with their principals to be allowed days off to take care of their personal affairs. These teachers will not be required to apply for UPAs; permission will be given through principals and management. The ministry looks forward to strong support from school management and expects sensitivity and flexibility in their approaches to teachers’ situations, especially for those most in need of assistance at this time.”
The ministry said it recognizes that students have also been impacted and some may not be able to attend school because they have lost their homes, clothing or books, and may also be suffering from trauma.
“The MoECST will be working with the schools to identify the students and ensure that they too receive the support and care needed. The MoECST and the Ministry of Health & Wellness will partner to ensure that counseling services and psychological first aid for persons who have experienced trauma are made available for both teachers and students.”
The ministry said it understands the importance of taking care of both physical and mental health, especially after potentially traumatic experiences like Hurricane Lisa.
Meanwhile, the government says it has made available an emergency allocation of funds for initial humanitarian assistance through the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) for food and emergency supplies for the most affected families.
It said the medium-term funds for humanitarian assistance, which includes emergency accommodation rental for displaced families, will be allocated to the Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs. A self-help small-housing relief and grocery bags assistance will be rolling out soon.
“Electricity and water are expected to be fully restored within the next day or two. The Belize Electricity Limited has informed of a 95 percent recovery,” the government said, adding that the
Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital is closed to elective surgery.