NASSAU, The Bahamas — “Education is a human right of our children,” said the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, August 22, at a training seminar for persons who will serve as Attendance Officers at the Ministry of Education and Technical & Vocational Training.
The 25 individuals have been carefully selected from a current complement of trained COVID officers by a review committee in the ministry, and also includes new applicants. Shortly there will be recruitment of officers in Grand Bahama and other Islands, Minister Hanna-Martin said.
During the initial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic many children and young people stopped attending school virtually and did not return to school when face-to-face instruction resumed, she said: “Our information tells us the numbers are in the thousands.” She stated, “Attending school is the process by which they acquire skills to allow them to navigate a complex world and help them realize their full potential as human beings and hopefully experience happiness in their lives as they are able to sustain a livelihood.
“Further it is a legal obligation under the Education Act that children of compulsory age (5 to 16) attend school. Parents have no discretion to cause these children not to attend school. Children must attend school and parents must ensure their children attend; and under the Education Act the Minister has a duty to ensure that parents comply.”
Minister Hanna-Martin said “we understand that often-times non-attendance signals some deeper malady either on or off campus, and it must be our collective intervention to support families and parents and our students where necessary to allow for smooth and unhindered attendance at school of our nation’s children, whilst simultaneously addressing underlying issues.
“In this regard our social safety net supports agencies such as the Department of Social Services and Special Services, including Guidance Counselling. [They] will collaborate to bring the necessary support and they are represented here today as a demonstration of that commitment.
“Where we identify children who are at or near school leaving age, and in those circumstances it may not be deemed pragmatic for those young people to re-enter the school classroom – I urge those students and their parents to avail themselves of the opportunity for continuing education including the newly launched Smart Start Programme by BTVI offered free of charge.
“The message today, however, is simple – children of compulsory age must attend school unless they fall into any of the exemptions under the Act.
“Parents have a legal obligation to ensure their children attend school, and the minister has a legal duty to ensure our children attend school and that parents carry out their responsibility.
“Failure to carry out this duty is accompanied by a criminal sanction.
“I am encouraging our nation’s parents to become more active participants in the education of their children, attend PTA meetings if you can, communicate with your children so you can have a full understanding of the process and develop respectful and collaborative relationships with their teachers and school administration.
“It takes a village and parents are the primary participants in this collective enterprise.”
Minister Hanna-Martin continued: “The recruitment and training today of these attendance officers is manifestation of the minister’s resolve to carry out the legal duty mandated in the Education Act and in the interest of our nation’s children.
“I ask all parents to join with me by carrying out their legal duty. We do not want our children wandering the streets or falling into harm’s way or being subject to any form of exploitation. “It is mandatory,” Minister Hanna Martin said, “that our children and young people are allowed and that we ensure they are given the social and intellectual exposure and support to aid in their development so that they may have the best chance possible for a good life, a life of dignity. “This is just one component of our work as we concentrate on qualitative progress in our schools,” said Minister Hanna-Martin.