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The Student Political Imperative

Delivered on the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the National Students’ Union of Belize.

Good evening!

It is indeed my absolute pleasure to be able to address you on this our 3rd anniversary! We are a toddler in the grand scheme of student movements but have worked and made big steps toward this collective movement.In our Belizean context, organizing alone and remaining resolute in the purpose of that organization is a feat, a success we must take ownership and be proud of. So in the same breath I say congratulations and thank you!

There are less than 15 tertiary level institutions across the Belizean landscape all with varying needs, varying accomplishments. They cater to students from all walks of life, of those who call Belize home, of those who have made Belize home. In 2016, The statistical institute of Belize reported that the secondary school age population of the nation stood at 34,393 with actual enrolment at 22,036 students.There was no data on tertiary level education but what I can tell you confidently and at the same time with an air of caution is that all those students should have made it through highschool and at this moment are now under the stewardship of our young,tenacious union be they members or not. Quite often we as a Belizean society shrug on tertiary level education as a privilege,one that only few are deemed worthy of acquiring. This is because of varying reasons all pointing to ease of accessibility to education. I can point to several culprits: be it unequal distribution of scholarships,be it the myriad of social issues that bar young people from accessing education, be it the question that we all have asked and I think will ask in our context: what’s the point?

I think the solution lies in finding out what our political imperatives are during the time of a pandemic that has shattered the way that we live our lives and lead ourselves. It lies in viewing this time as one of opportunity to reform the ways in which we want to be governed. It has given us copious amounts of time to contemplate the level of participation we have had in our own development. 

You see students, in a time that we have been forced to move online in our Zoom universities we must ask ourselves,how long have we been on a thin line? A crash course waiting for the right catalyst to tell us that its time to reevaluate our experiments with education. We have had many challenges with our transition, from pedagogy to practice, from policy to pocket money. In between those times when we must hurriedly submit assignments on Moodle, Black board collaborate and Google classroom discussion boards,  we cannot forget those who have no computers and internet connection in their homes, those who only have internet on their phones and those who have internet but only have access to one computer in their homes. Yet still, we must remember those who depended on a friend at school for the day’s meal, those who lost income and now have to make the decision to survive now and leave an education for later. What a privilege it is to be educated from home,to work from home.

These are our political imperatives.

I want to reiterate  my words to my fellow students that I shared on international student day on November 17th 2020. It goes,“At home, we’ve seen students lead the course changing demonstrations in April 2005, more recently we watched student of the University of Belize lead a walkout to attend the national demonstrations by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, we watched the National Student Union of Belize lobby to become an affiliate honorary member of the NTUCB, we watched as students stood in solidarity with the University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union as the looking glass of the COVID 19 revealed the lack of adequate investment into our national university. With all these actions, Belizean students still face challenges relating to affordability of tertiary education, equitable distribution of national scholarships, the accreditation of our national university and inclusion of Belizean students abroad such as those in Cuba who had to advocate for the facilitation of support from our home country or of students who could not receive support to get to the security of home during the first climax of the global pandemic.

The call today is for education stakeholders to include and invest in an education that is the breeding ground for radical, creative, decolonizing ideas and what Paulo Friere calls “critical consciousness”, a recommitment to the acknowledgement and understanding of social, political, and economic contradictions, and taking action against the oppressive elements of that reality.”

Dominique noralez, November 17 2020

There is work to be done.

Students are builders. Students are teachers. Students are investments. Students are untapped vessels of unbounded potential. We are the conduit through which progressive national development shall come. 

The call today is for students to embody that consciousness of our collective dynamism. The call today is for education stakeholders to include and invest in an education that is the breeding ground for radical, creative, decolonizing ideas and what Paulo Friere calls “critical consciousness”, a recommitment to the acknowledgement and understanding of social, political, and economic contradictions, and taking action against the oppressive elements of that reality.”

I end with the words of Trinbagonian Poet and friend , Amilar Sanatan, “Solidarity is our survival”. 

This must be the student political imperative.

Published by Dominique Noralez

Spirit. Human. Belizean. Black. Wombmxn. Agape Tributary. Youth Leader.

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