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Kekchi and Mayan Culture

The Children of Blue Creek

Education and the Future

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY JEAN-PHILIPPE SOULÉ 1999

Blue Creek wouldn't be the same without its children. If you arrive during a school break, the children will be the first ones to greet you with smiles and greetings: "Hello, hello". You will see them bathing in the river, and a few riding old bicycles three times too big for them. Older girls help their mothers washing the laundry next to toddlers sitting naked in the water. The kids quickly adopted us. Some joined us in jungle walks. Others proudly showed us some of their latest animal or map drawings. We visited their school and attended their classes for a morning.

The 95 students are divided in 3 classrooms. The three Garifuna teachers from Punta Gorda are kept busy. The first class is divided in 2 rows, one facing each direction with a blackboard on each side. The teacher teaches the infant 1 while the infant 2 (Grade 1 and 2) are drawing, then the teacher changes sides and teaches the second half. In the two other classes are found grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. (Corresponding to Grade 3 to 8). Each teacher teaches 3 grades in the same class.

During recess the boys like to play soccer and the girls softball. The problem is that this equipment doesn't last forever. I went looking for some but even in the town of Punta Gorda (capitol of the Toledo district) I couldn't find any. Even if available, families in Blue Creek live from their own farming and usually don't have the financial means to purchase sports equipment. The school is operated by the government, but small villages aren't a priority. Some students aspire to go to high school but unlike elementary and junior high, high-school costs $400 per term, a fee most families can't afford.

Out of all the teenagers in Blue Creek, only 3 families send one of their children to Punta Gorda for high-school. The students first have to ride their old bike for 12 miles on a dirt road to the paved main road where they catch the bus to the big town. No children from Blue Creek has yet entered a university. Ignacio Coc hopes it will change. He started to work with IZE to provide for 2 scholarships. The 2 best students if they want to continue their studies now have a way to do so. Ignacio explained that the village needs more educated people and he wishes those people to be natives from the village.

The future of Blue Creek is still uncertain. Blue Creek is small town that has kept much of its culture and traditions because farmers are still able to provide for their kids. But with  electricity coming to the village many things might change. Blue Creek will either become an eco-tourism success or the children might be forced to move out to look for low paying jobs in factories or plantations. In the worst case, some will end up in the streets of Belize city. This is what Ignacio would like to prevent. He understands the potential of Blue Creek's natural beauty and cultural heritage. He also understands the importance of modern education in a modernizing world. The children of Blue Creek are its future and they should be given a chance. Ignacio is working on various projects for the town: library, scholarship program, limited tourism development, lobbying for governmental or NGO support to obtain more services for the village.

Photos

School Children 1  ;  School Children 2  ;  School Children 3  ;  School Children 4  ;  Child 1  ;  Child 2  ;  Child 3  ;  Child 4  ;  Children

If you would like to help the children of Blue Creek, small donations of books, school supplies and recreational equipment are welcome. You will receive a Thank You Letter written by the children themselves. For more information read our info page.

 

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