We have been following the story of Hope SDA Christian Academy in Rhaburn Ridge Village in the Belize District closely. In fact, we can safely say that we were the first to bring the issue to light The school was opened on January sixth this year without a valid license and classes have been held with twenty-five students from infant one to standard four for the past two months. The Ministry of Education has warned the school’s administration to cease all classes but the school continues open. Today the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports issued a press release on the matter.
In the release, the Ministry says that the school management of the Belize Union of Seventh Day Adventists submitted an application for a license to operate the school in July 2012. This was referred to the Belize District Education Council for review and recommendations. In august of 2013 however, the license was denied. The reasons include that Rhaburn Ridge is only about 10 miles from Biscayne Government School, which services all communities within a ten mile radius. Second: is that the Ministry of Education provided school transportation for the small number of students from Rhaburn Ridge to the Biscayne Government School. Third: is that there are not enough children between ages 5 and 14 in the area to justify the establishment of a new school in that location. The Ministry further explains that the Adventist mission had previously been forced to close a school in Maypen due to a decrease in population. And finally, the Ministry states that the application was not in alignment with the Ministry’s efforts to reduce the number of small schools that are in relatively close proximity to each other.
In addition to this, according to the Ministry, based on the Education Rules 2000, rule eleven, one requires that an application of such nature be submitted sixteen months before the proposed opening of the school. The application by Hope SDA’s administration did not meet this time frame. As mentioned by the Head Teacher, Jacqueline Morales, an appeal was submitted. In their release, the Ministry states that that appeal has been reviewed and the District Education Council reiterated its decision but recommended that the matter be referred to the National Council for Education for arbitration in accordance with Rule 18 of the Education Rules, 2000. That has been recently done on February thirteenth 2014.
After several warnings, the Ministry in its release once more quotes, “The Ministry requires that the Hope SDA Christian Academy cease operations forthwith pending the completion of the arbitration process which has been initiated,” end quote. There were no indications of the implications to the administration if the school continues to operate but the release only states that the Ministry is mandated to ensure that all persons or entities intending to establish an educational institution adhere to the goals and policies of the Ministry.
It further states that efforts like that of the administration of the Hope SDA Christian Academy, in other words denominational managements and other organizations completely undermines the Ministry’s goals and policies such as its current efforts to rationalize the location of schools, and to reduce the proliferation of small schools in proximity to each other.