Celebrating Belize Independence, students joy in September

On Friday 15 September, I was lucky to be at St. Martin’s Government Primary School in the country’s capital of Belmopan.  I was there to talk to students about the importance of celebrating the 36th anniversary of Belize’s Independence. The kids were dressed in white, red and blue; the main colors of our unique Belize flag.

At around 9 o’clock in the morning, the teachers were busy making final adjustments to the decors of the stage. The kids were asked to bring their chairs out to the assembly area. The sound-system blasted popular nationalist hits like “Ya da fu we Belize”.

I was worried about what I could say to such a diverse range of students. There were students from infant one to standard five.  They represented many of Belize’s ethnic groups such as Maya, Mestizo, Creole, and Garifuna. Many kids spoke to each other in Spanish, which was not surprising because the school is located in Salvapan. This was the area where many refugees and migrants settled in the 1980s following civil wars in Central American countries like Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras.

“O Land of the Free, By the Carib Sea…” was sung and the entire student body stood at attention. This was followed by a National Prayer, instituted by the Father of the Nation, the Rt. Hon. George Price, who was the country’s eminent leader of independence.

The kids then song Happy Birthday to Belize with an artisanal paper-craft cake dedicated to all those who proudly say “I am Belize”.

I then stood up to speak to the kids. I realized that it was much more important that I speak with them and not to them. I asked general questions about Belize and gave small prizes away. They knew all the answers. They knew that our independence was achieved on 21 September, 1981 and they knew the theme for this year’s celebration was “Belize: Confronting Challenges! Celebrating Triumphs! Renewing our Resolve!”.

My favorite moment was when I encouraged the students to say what they would do if they were the Prime Minister of Belize. I loved the answers: help the poor, build schools, provide freedom and improve the hospitals. I thought these are some of the most important values of patriotism. It is our readiness to improve the quality of life for each other which makes us Belizean.

Hip-hip-hurray! The kids waved their flags excitedly. Long Live Belize! Que Viva Belice! These were the chants heard throughout the compound and throughout the country. Many other schools were carrying out similar patriotic rallies followed by the traditional goodie bags given to students after they parade their neighborhoods and towns. 



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