Why They Need Your Help


In Belize, less than 40% of high-school-age students are in high school.  Yet, the days of earning a living from fishing are quickly disappearing.  The students of Belize need a broad, solid education to succeed in a country that depends on tourism.

 

Across the country, students are required to pay school fees, buy their own school books, and buy uniforms.  Less than half of the population can afford to pay these expenses.  They are denied an education and many families remain in a cycle of poverty.  

 

The founders of Ocean Academy do everything they can to help students overcome financial obstacles including working full-time without receiving pay.  Still, the school must pay the bills.  Donors and volunteers help to make the dream of an educaiton a reality.

 

Before Ocean Academy opened as Caye Caulker's first secondary school in September of 2008, children had few options to continue beyond primary school.

 

Caye Caulker is home to 600 children primary-school age or younger. For more than 30 years, select students have boarded in distant cities or made daily water taxi commutes to attend high school. This commute is prohibitively expensive, dangerous, and exhausting. Currently, less than 10% of Caye Caulker children graduate from high school – many never even begin. Ocean Academy opened to meet the following needs:  

 

  • Allow for safe access to education. Children will no longer be required to commute to or board in Belize City which has a murder-per-capita rate five times that of the highest rate in the U.S. (often an impossible adjustment for children who grew up on quaint Caye Caulker). 
  •  Preserve the nuclear family. For many families, the only affordable option for high school has been to send their children to live with a friend or family member in a distant city; or for one parent to move with the child. This difficult decision breaks up families every year.  
  • Provide an education to students regardless of economic status. Donors are helping to pull families out of subsistence living – “hand to mouth” as Belizeans call it – by opening doors for whole families through sponsoring a child’s education. (Ocean Academy is a non-denominational community school; all current funding comes from donors, grants, and partial tuition payments made by students.)  
  • Provide an education to students regardless of previous academic achievement.  High school is not available to Belizean youth who have not performed well in primary school. An academic and behavior-based application process often excludes the students who need further education the most. A Bridge Preparatory Year for building core skills and confidence combinedwith small classes and an after-school tutoring program is aimed at“catching” these students. 
  • Excite students with an excellent education. In addition to core courses that follow the Belizean curriculum, highly qualified staff teach enrichment components such as Computer Literacy, Water Tourism Career Development (scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing), a School Business (practical planning, financing, marketing), and Electives (art, guitar, yoga, languages, trades). The enrichment will provide stimulus and has created excitement for students who have never considered themselves student material, including those who have dropped out of school and now wish to return. In sum, Ocean Academy is committed to teaching any student who WANTS to learn. Our highly committed staff, passion for education, faith in children, and belief in the power of community are the cornerstones for our success. 

 

Issues Ocean Academy addresses

 

  • English is a second or third language for students. Good-paying jobs require command of English for interacting with tourists. Belize, formerly British Honduras, is an English-speaking country - officially. In the home, villagers speak Creole, a broken English passed down from African slaves’ adaptation of English. Though close to English, Kriol is often incomprehensible to a tourist. Learning English after Kriol is difficult because the altered verb conjugations, sentence structures, and vocabulary used in Kriol are so ingrained. For example, “Give that to her,” translates in Kriol  to: “Lef’ dat fa’ she.” “Where is he?” translates to “Whe’ pa’ ‘e go?” Additional languages spoken in the home are Spanish, Maya, Garifuna (of African and Amerindian descent), and Chinese. These children generally learn Kriol as their second language, and English as the third. 
  • Many Ocean Academy students will be the first in their family to attend high school. Thirty years ago, Caye Caulker was isolated from the rest of the world. A sailboat-ride to the mainland took all day. Televisions did not exist. Fishing was the mainstay of the economy. A high-school education was not so important. Today, Caye Caulker is a popular international tourist destination. Half of the island’s population is a constant flow of well-educated foreigners. The gap between the haves and have-nots grows as the need for business and computer skills becomes necessary in the tourism-based economy. 
  • Students who fail the high school entrance exam are traditionally not granted admission to high school, yet they are the ones who need education the most. Following our mission to educate any child who wants to learn, Ocean Academy has developed a Bridge Preparatory Year for students who did not pass the High School Entrance Exam (a Caribbean wide exam), to strengthen core skills and build confidence for entrance the following year into high school. As students fall behind in primary school, they struggle to keep up with the lessons. In Bridge, the lessons will be tailored to meet the individual student’s ability and needs, until they have successfully mastered the material. After-school tutoring will provide further support. 
  • Belize is a young, small country, and educated individuals will make a positive impact on the development of the country and Caye Caulker. Belize gained its independence in 1981 and its population is approximately 250,000. Caye Caulker scientists, lawyers, economists, sociologists, psychologists, doctors, and other professionals will empower a broad representation as development continues.