Education report: Nearly 3,000 students displaced by Dorian

Education report: Nearly 3,000 students displaced by Dorian
Aerial shot of destruction in Abaco in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

Data shows only 41.5 percent of students from Abaco processed

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Hundreds of students remain unaccounted nearly two months after Hurricane Dorian because there was no strategy to process displaced youth in the immediate aftermath of the monster storm, according to School Registration Coordinator Zane Lightbourne.

A report prepared by the Department of Education indicates 2,835 students were displaced by Hurricane Dorian; however, only 1,500 of them have been recorded as enrolled in schools in New Providence and other Family Islands.

Lightbourne said: “We discovered that a large number of students never came into Nassau. Some in Grand Bahama went to the U.S. but in Grand Bahama and Abaco in particular, a number of them went to other islands.

“Some of those islands, we’re still getting in numbers trying to get them to send every island that took students from Abaco to send us that information because they did not come through our process to get placed in schools.

He continued: “There was never a process to be very honest with you to really address students and placing them after a storm, and so even our program, it addressed students that would have come into Nassau on about [September] 12.”

The report, dated November 4, notes that based on school database records there were 2,583 students displaced from Abaco and 252 from Grand Bahama.

Of those figures, 1,073 students from Abaco (41.5 percent) were enrolled in schools in New Providence and the Family Islands and 241 students from Grand Bahama (95.6 percent) were enrolled.

However, the same report indicates that a total 1,539 displaced students were processed — 170 requiring placements to date and 1,369 placed in schools.

This leaves nearly 1,300 students who were in Abaco’s school database unaccounted for by education officials.

School Registration Coordinator Zane Lightbourne

The storm leveled communities in Abaco and Grand Bahamas on September 1-3.

Lightbourne said as part of the government’s response efforts numerous agencies began providing services at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, including school registration and health screening of students.

“When people were being taken out of Abaco a lot of them did not go in shelters, but when they came to Nassau they stayed with family members — a large sum of them — in communities and they disappeared,” he said. 

“No one knows who they were…until they started to show up to schools and some of them did that very soon: as soon as they were evacuated, they stayed with family, went into schools and the schools took them.”

He said there was a call for all schools who accommodated displaced students around that time to send them to the stadium to be medically screened.

“This was an oversight because there was no process like I said that was in place before,” Lightbourne said.

He said the same should have been done for displaced students who travelled to the Family Islands.

According to the Hurricane Dorian Displaced Students School Assignments (Public and Private) document obtained by Eyewitness News Online, 1,367 displaced students were enrolled in New Providence public schools while another 57 were placed in “other” schools, which included private and special needs schools.

C.V. Bethel Senior High School topped the list at the senior level, with 62 displaced students enrolled— 25 students in Grade 10; 19 students in Grade 11 and 18 students in Grade 12.

In total, seven named senior high schools enrolled 290 displaced students.

At the junior level, S.C. McPherson Junior High School topped the list taking, placing 85 displaced students — 40 boys and 45 girls.

The breakdown of students enrolled by grade shows 32 students were admitted to grade seven, 26 in grade eight and 27 in grade nine.

A total of 24 primary schools participating in the displacement enrollment program took on a combined 724 primary school students and eight preschool students.

Twenty-seven students were transferred to schools in the Family Islands, including schools in Andros, Exuma, Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Cat Island, Harbour Island and San Salvador.

Thirty students were enrolled in private schools in New Providence.

These included, Achiever’s Christian Academy, Akhepran International Academy, Aquinas College, Bahamas Academy, Charles W. Saunders Baptist High, First Step Academy, Hillcrest Academy, Jordan Prince William High, Kingsway Academy, St. John’s College and Temple Christian.