By Gustavo A. Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant

Today, in 2013, (too) many people in Belize are struggling through “hard times”.  These difficult times specifically include: never-before-seen high unemployment of both the educated and uneducated; widespread poverty that also affects people who once were middle class; gangs fighting openly amongst themselves day and night, blatantly taking anything and everything they can get from hard-working Belizeans; violent and uninvestigated murders by known gangs in increasing numbers almost everyday; more and more closures of what were once successful business establishments that gainfully employed many Belizeans; higher and higher tuition costs for education (Secondary and Tertiary) that continue to increase each year, despite the fact that salaries for most Belizeans remain at a standstill; and the sorry list could just go on and on.  A February 23, 2012 Press Release issued a year ago by Belmopan’s Statistical Institute of Belize (www.statisticsbelize.org.bze) shows unemployment in Belize at 23.2% in the year 2010.  Yet, it’s no secret that unemployment in Belize has soared by leaps and bounds since 2010; and just as the unemployment rate has soared, so too has the murder and crime rate.

However, what have we done since 2010 to challenge and try to halt this rampant and fast-paced turn-around of what was once a productive and peaceful Belize? I point fingers across the board, not just at those who are in power or wealthy. Belize, once recognized worldwide as a peaceful country, is now listed among the most dangerous areas in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America – in the entire world. Please, stop for a moment to let this reality “sink in”. Now, what are we Belizeans, especially the elected members of our elected government, currently doing to highlight, seek, and offer any solutions to these pressing and ever-increasing problems? It seems that we merely keep pressing forward, day in and day out, with blinders fully stuck on, and quite satisfied that we live in a “jewel”.

Aldous Huxley’s oft-quoted line, “if the world had any ends, Belize would be one…” used to be such a quaint and apt phrase to describe us. It was previously used by our tourism industry to attract many tourists to Belize to escape from their fast-paced and busy worlds. Unfortunately, in the 21st Century in which we live today, that well-known quote seems to solemnly describe a country fast approaching the very end of its own world.

I guess that many readers are thinking to themselves right now, “And why is he so full of gloom and doom? And what is he doing about the destructive turn-around he so gloomily describes?” My answers: I am painting my own current reality, not describing something that I read about in the newspapers, or hear on the radio. I remain unemployed; and a known gangster recently murdered my brother, a hard-working businessman. (To date absolutely nothing has been done by the authorities about it!) Re the second question, you are looking directly at what I’m doing about it. The pen, it’s been said, is mightier than the sword. My choice of weapon to combat the continuous destruction ravaging Belize is a pen — in this 21st Century wherein we live my computer is my pen. What I don’t see, though, is what other Belizeans are doing today to help others, and themselves, to overcome this daily growing situation of mass destruction that even the wealthy people in Belize can no longer afford to ignore. Does anyone even care?

I always encourage readers to comment on my articles; but some responses (comments) to previous articles I have written and contributed seem SO very typical of how too many of my people think. Such lines of unreasonable thinking are not only pathetic, but are the very reasons why absolutely nothing is being done currently to try to get Belize out of the sorry state in which it now finds itself. Example of such a comment: “Why is he screaming so much for change in how we educate our young people? If his education was good enough for him, then it should also good enough for young people today.” That is such an ignorant comment that will get no response from me. (For the record, the Belizean education I received was good for me!)

I have no intentions whatsoever of trying to change or criticize my previous academic education in Belize. Nevertheless, we are not living today in the times during which I used to go to school in Belize! I went to school in Belize during the decade from 1960 to 1970 – since before we were even a self-governing country. We now live in the 21st Century and in an Independent nation. Whether we like it or not, we must embrace the many changes that have come to Belize now that we are Independent. We must “adapt” to the changes that come now that we look out for ourselves instead of continuing to expect Colonial Masters to do so for us. More important, we must live with changes that have come to Belize, and to the world, with advanced technology, whether we like them or not. Yet, according to previous comments to my articles, we can simply ignore changes today because we lived quite well without them in the past. That statement is as ridiculous as saying that one can go live from Belize to the North Pole, and still only wear Guayaberas there because that’s what one used to wear in Belize.

Another comment I have seen before is a blatant criticism that I should keep quiet because I do not offer acceptable steps on how to deal with the changes that I point out. According to that line of reasoning, were I to see a fire break out in a public place, I dare not scream FIRE to warn others, unless I can offer specific plans on how to put it out. Please, let us not insist on being known to the world as the nation of people with excuses, excuses, excuses. In my next article I will discuss at length several ways to try to break free from “learned helplessness”. Psychologists today use this phrase to describe being repeatedly exposed to uncontrollable events, and your brain “learning” that success is beyond your control. (Ever wonder why Boledo is so very popular with poor people…)

Author’s Note:

These articles on Education are not intended to be comprehensive or complete. They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community. When we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, we learn from our mistakes as well as success. Here’s to fining the best path to follow, fellow educators!

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About Gustavo Ramirez

Gustavo A. Ramirez is an educationist with many years of experience in the field of education. He has worked in capacities as teacher and guidance counselor in secondary schools since 1978, and has been instrumental in incubating and nurturing guidance counseling through systems, curricula and people development, both in Belize and the United States. He writes several columns dealing with the constant need for adapting and embracing “change” in Belize’s Education systems. Ramirez holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology (Guidance Counseling) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin. He attended Holy Redeemer Boys School, St. John‘s College, and St. Michael’s College (Sixth Form/Junior College) in Belize City.

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