New Water System and School for San Pedro Columbia Village Print E-mail
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Thursday, 14 June 2012 00:00

A joint ceremony to mark the official inauguration of two important projects in San Pedro Columbia Village, Toledo District was held on Friday, June 8. Hon. Santiago Castillo, Minister of State with responsibility for Economic Development, officially inaugurated a new pre-school and rudimentary water system for the village of San Pedro Columbia.

The projects fall under the Millennium Development Goals. The pre-school project falls in line with the Millennium Development Goal No. 2, which aims to achieve Universal Primary Education and Target 5, which aims to ensure that by 2005 children everywhere will able to complete a full course of primary schooling up to Standard 6.  A proper pre-school education will enable entry into primary school possible and the fulfillment of this goal.

The expansion of the San Pedro Columbia water system included the rehabilitation of the water tank and pump house, improvements to the well, installation of meters to every  household and expansion of the distribution system using 2, 3 and 6 inch pipes to developing areas of the village and areas not originally connected to the water system. Rapid population growth in San Pedro Columbia has placed enormous pressure on the village’s infrastructure including the supply of potable water. Prior to the project, only about 275 families in the lower central area of the village was able to water while some 50 families in the higher areas had serious problems with their water supply.  However, as a result of the improvements to the water system, all the villagers now get a reliable supply of quality potable water 24 hours a day. The installation of meters has led to less water wastage and has allowed the San Pedro Columbia Water Board to generate more funds that will be utilized for the maintenance and future expansion of the water system. Part of government’s Millennium Development Goals is to have the entire country with access to clean potable drinking water by 2015.

Both projects were implemented by the Social Investment Fund at a total cost of $665,460.  The pre-school was financed by the Government of Belize through a $222,507 loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), while the expansion of  the water system was financed by the Basic Needs Trust Fund of the C.D.B at a total cost of $442,953.

The pre-school project entailed the construction of a 53 ft long by 31 ft wide one-classroom, concrete building with a 5 foot verandah and access ramp.  A zinc roof, reinforced concrete floor, galvanized aluminum- louvered windows with burglar bars and solid timber doors were installed.  The pre-school is also equipped with a kitchenette and a boys’ and girls bathroom facility.  A chain link fence was erected around the perimeter of the pre-school. A supply of toys, chairs and a refrigerator were also included as part of the project. Construction of the preschool will free up two classrooms at the San Pedro Columbia Roman Catholic Primary School, which housed the pre-school children.  This will eliminate the overcrowded situation at the school and create a better learning and teaching environment for both primary and pre-school students and teachers.

Pre-school education sets the foundation for the life long process of learning by equipping children with the basic literacy and social skills.  Early childhood education is crucial for human development and poverty reduction.

As part of the project, SIF provided training to members of the water board and village council on how to effectively operate the system, while the Ministry of Rural Development provided basic training in bookkeeping, accounting and conservation.

San Pedro Columbia is located 20 miles from Punta Gorda in the heart of the Toledo District. The village is the home of over 2,000 Ketchi Mayas, Mestizos and East Indian residents.  The original settlers came from San Luis Peten, Guatemala, who established themselves along the banks of the river in the late 19th century.  Most of the villagers do subsistence farming for their livelihood, but some are also involved in pig, poultry and cattle production.  Some of the residents are also involved in small businesses such as grocery shops, handicraft sales and tour guiding to the nearby Lubaantun Maya Archaeological site.