Education officers to seek out 100 non-attending students in shelters

Education officers to seek out 100 non-attending students in shelters
Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Lorraine Armbrister

NIB numbers will be provided to another 130 students out of school

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — There are approximately 100 displaced children in shelters in New Providence who remain out of school despite being enrolled, Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Lorraine Armbrister confirmed yesterday.

In an interview with Eyewitness News Online, Armbrister said the ministry has sent education attendance officers to the shelter sites to locate the enrolled children and ensure they attend school.

She said a continued failure to attend school in compliance with the law could eventually result in police intervention. She did not wish to speculate as to why the children had not been attending.

“There are persons in the shelters, students in the shelters who have received letters enrolling them in certain schools and they have failed to go to the schools and so our attendance officers — we are going to ask for the assistance of the Ministry of Social Services to help us as well — will go to the shelters to seek them out to ensure that they do attend school,” the permanent secretary said.

She added: “That already begun. That’s underway now. The law is clear on that. The children must be in schools.”

Another 130-plus children in the shelters have not attended school because they do not have a National Insurance Board (NIB) and could not obtain one.

Armbrister said this will be resolved immediately, and NIB will register the children.

“We have worked with National Insurance to resolve that issue,” she said.

“Students will be given national insurance numbers immediately to allow them to also be enrolled in school.”

Armbrister noted that many of the students in question did not have NIB because of the immigration status of their parents/guardians.

Eyewitness News Online understands from sources close to the matter that education officials were also considering offering classes in the shelters in the interim.

When asked about this, Armbrister said: “Now about classes being offered at the shelters, I will have to certainly get advice on that from the Department of Education. That, I am not aware of, but I don’t see why it can’t be done. The basic point is that every child should be in school. The Education Act provides that all children in The Bahamas should be in school unless of course, you are in an approved private homeschooling arrangement. But everyone else should be in school.”

Bahamas-born Telisna Poemilien, a former The Mudd resident, has three children in her care  — ages 13 and 11 — who have not attended school since the passage of Dorian because they have do not have NIB cards.

She and her brother became the guardian of six children after her sister and brother-in-law died less than two years ago.

Three of them, who hold Bahamian passports, have been enrolled in schools in New Providence.

However, the remaining three remain at the shelter, explained Poemilien’s brother, Henson Baptiste.

He said while he was promised a call back from officials earlier this month after seeking to obtain a NIB card for the children, he had not heard back from them.

“They never called them,” he told Eyewitness News Online.

“They were writing their names, so they could go into schools. The government said they was going to call them. They never called them back. I have six of them. Three of them have NIB cards, but three of them have no NIB cards. They are still in the shelter.

He has been assisting his sister and brother with funds.

The Ministry of Health has expressed concern with the high number of children at the Kendal G. L. Isaacs Gymnasium who have not been attending school and remain at the shelter facility during the day.

According to a Ministry of Health Situation Report, dated October 25, 150 children were not in school and in need of NIB cards as of last Friday.

Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd has said displaced students “have to be in school” in accordance with The Bahamas’ international obligations.

More than 1,400 students were processed at the stadium in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.