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Making the Grade in Machakil Ha

Making the Grade in Machakil Ha
April 13
07:59 2019

Every year, the very top performers of the Primary School Exams (PSE) are exalted, and rightly so, for their excellence and for making their schools shine. But hardly, if ever, do we hear about those students whose very effort to get an education goes over and beyond anything we in urban areas can begin to comprehend. Like the five standard six students from Machakil Ha RC School who had to get up at 3:00am on Monday morning while the rest of their peers were likely still asleep. They had to pack their lunches and prepare themselves before walking in the dark (their village has no electricity, no internet and no access road) to their school for 4:45 that morning where they all met up as a group, then walked for an hour and a half, covering roughly seven miles to reach Dolores Village by 6:30, where they caught the school bus that took them to Corazon Village, which is about another hour away.

The children, who appeared visibly tired on their return journey, shared via a video recording on Facebook later that day that they were grateful that they made it back home safely. When we questioned why, we learned that it had rained on their way back and that gusty winds were strong enough to fall trees, as it did in another southern village. Their walk back took an extra hour than going because of the slippery condition of the trail that they use to traverse to and from the village. That was not all. They got home drenched and muddy. One of them on the video begged for someone, anyone who would listen to provide their village with a rocked road. Such was the cry a month ago after a young mother delivered her newborn in the wilderness because the baby came before the men could carry her by foot to the nearest village where transportation is available.

Later that evening the five children shared their wish with one of the elders in the village – that one day soon they could have a road that makes their village accessible to the rest of Belize like the other children who sat the same exam. They also wished that soon, as well, they would enjoy the same amenities and the same utilities, such as light and water, as most other children their age have.

While Machakil Ha villagers, who number around 100, live a traditional way of life, their plea for a rocked road would uplift the standards they have been faced with for all 38 years of that village’s existence. The children’s education is always at jeopardy because of their quality of life. The condition of their road places them in situations far removed from what city folks are accustomed to or even others in far more developed villages and towns. Because the walk takes them so long, they often times do not get enough sleep, their feet hurt from cuts and other injuries, and they are exhausted from having to carry everything having to do with their existence by foot and hand because no vehicle can enter the village.

But “these children are resilient and hardworking so they always do their best,” the elder shared.” “They said that the exam was a bit easy.” These are children whose daily grades are still very commendable, averaging in the upper 70s and 80s, according to Arnaldo Putul, one of the teachers who prepared them for the PSE.

But reality soon steps in, Mr. Putul lamented, when many who do make it to high school, which is located in Corazon, eventually drop out for reasons listed as well as not being able to afford the fees associated with a high school education. The few who do graduate from high school are still looking for jobs, while an even smaller few have to relocate out of the village, having landed employment.

If this generation of PSE students – the five who sat the exam on Monday – get their wish in time for their high school years, it would mean that they would have been given a fair chance at succeeding in their educational pursuits and inevitably their lives ahead.

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