In Belize, children take the lead to teach their peers on TV, radio and Facebook
How UNICEF has been working with partners to keep children learning through COVID-19.
BELIZE CITY, Belize – Take a handful of children, teach them how to speak in front of a camera about topics they care about, broadcast the show on TV, radio and Facebook to ensure maximum reach, and you have “In It Together”.
Led by children for children, this Belizean show has kept children learning during school closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF talks with some of the children who led the show, exploring what “In It Together” meant for them. We discuss how the experience helped them grow – and some of their favourite moments along the way.*
UNICEF: How has COVID-19 affected your routine?
Georgiana: It affected everything because we don’t go to school anymore. And on weekends, well you can’t really do anything because you can’t go out like you did before. But I understand the situation we are in right now and we have just to cope with it.
Joshua: Lots of stuff has changed. My sleep schedule, how I connect with my friends… basically I can’t do as much fun stuff as I used to do.
Triston: We don’t have to get up early to get to school. But then it’s worse because we don’t get to see our friends.
Mia: I can’t go anywhere. I can’t go anywhere without a mask. I hate wearing masks.
UNICEF: How did it feel being part of the show In It Together?
Georgiana: At first it was very scary because I had never been on TV before! But then I got used to it. It was very interesting because we did different things almost every day.
Joshua: It’s a great learning experience. And also fun!
Triston: I really loved it! I made new friends and it made me loosen up a little bit.
Mia: I liked it. It’s fun!
UNICEF: Out of the things you did during the show, what was your favourite?
Georgiana: My favourite would have to be “Ask the Experts”, where we got to talk to very important people in the country.
Joshua: I agree, “Ask the Experts” was great! We got to ask people about questions we didn’t know the answers to.
Triston: For me, it was trying [the fruit] rambutan. It was really fun because you are blindfolded so can’t see what’s happening. Then you try it and say, what is this?! But it actually tastes good. When I saw the reactions of the others tasting the fruit, I laughed so much!
Mia: My favourite part of the show was when we reviewed fruits. There was a bowl of fruit and we were asked to give our honest opinion about it.
UNICEF: Did you learn anything new during the show?
Georgiana: I learned more about our country. When we did our “Did you know?” segment, we were asked questions about things we had never heard before. Also, I learned more about teamwork. We always had to work together, otherwise the show wouldn’t flow.
Joshua: I learned how expensive bills are. I didn’t know about that before! Also, when we interviewed Patrick Faber [Minister of Education], he taught us many things about education which I didn’t know, for example about the issues of all those kids not going to school. And with Michael Peyrefitte [Attorney General], he taught us what may happen if we started opening the borders and bringing more people to Belize.
Triston: I learned a lot from the city officials [we interviewed], about being more talkative and opening up. I learned about the system inside the recording room, how the mics work and stuff like that. And I learned about the kinkajou [also known as honey bear] when we did “animal of the day”.
Mia: Yes, mostly when we did the quizzes. I learned a ton of stuff about my country. I also learned how to draw and a little bit of acting.
UNICEF: How do you think learning during the show was different than learning in school?
Georgiana: We learned in a more fun way. And we did this because we wanted to, in school you are told to do things.
Joshua: In school they teach us stuff that we are supposed to learn to help us in life. But they are not teaching stuff that will come later in life.
Triston: It was really different. Inside the classroom you have to sit and you can’t talk, you can’t do anything… here you are free and you can have fun and talk to people, but at the same time you have to listen to know what you are going to do.
Mia: There weren’t teachers yelling at us! We were able to speak without raising our hands. I prefer this type of learning by far, because it’s fun.
UNICEF: If you could ask for one thing you would really like to learn next, what would that be?
Georgiana: Not sure. Joshua?
Joshua: I would really like to learn about engineering and plumbing. I want to become an engineer.
Triston: Oh, I would really like to know more about animals. Animals, that I don’t really know. Like with the Kinkajiu, I didn’t even know it existed or that was even an animal. It sounded like a fruit to me.
Mia: Mmm, good question. The life cycle of an iguana!
"I believe the show was very valuable to students and parents as they were learning in a fun way."
Keeping Belize’s children learning through COVID-19
With more than 100,000 children and adolescents affected by school closures in Belize, the need to support parents with alternatives to school, while looking after the mental health of younger ones, was clear.
UNICEF joined forces with the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture and national partners, including Color Blind Multimedia Productions, to produce and air the show around the country for two months, from June to July.
12-year-olds interviewed experts, spoke about and demonstrated topics ranging from cooking, communication and gardening to reading, maths, and science.
Each episode had a segment called “Peace Out” featuring school counsellors who offered psychosocial support to help relieve the stress of children and families during these challenging times.
In three months, the show has been watched by over 10,000 viewers on Facebook alone.
“I believe the show was very valuable to students and parents as they were learning in a fun way,” said Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education. “The anchors on the show were students and, as such, they were in the best position to communicate with their peers, acting as role models,” he added.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has been working in Belize both to reduce COVID-19 transmission and mortality through Belize’s public health response, and to mitigate the socioeconomic impacts on children and families, especially the most vulnerable.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.