Education Minister Jeffery Lloyd told educators Monday that they do not have the right or the authority to deny any child entry into the public-school system, whether they are here “legally or illegally”.
Addressing education officials at a Ministry of Education conclave at the British Colonial Hilton (BCH) yesterday, Lloyd said, the only requirement that schools need is the name of the child and their address.
“So, I heard someone ask a question earlier about those who are in the is country who may speak a different language,” Lloyd said.
“Let me say this. You principals, you educators. Let me advise you of something very important. You have no right; you have no authority to deny anyone access to our education system. This is crucial.
“You cannot ask them whether they are here legally or illegally, what their status is or not. That is not your right. In fact, it is against the law.
“What you do have the right to do is to ensure that the child is identified. ‘Jeffery Lloyd and I live so and so’ that’s it. Nothing else. Otherwise you are going to run us up on the gum tree and we are going to get ourselves in trouble, especially with the international community, and we will potentially be facing [law]suits.
“We have signed on to international conventions and treaties that authorizes us to educate every child, actually every person in this society but, we mandate in law – the Education Act, please read it, that a child five years to 16 years must be in school. Nothing in there says legal or illegal.”
The new policy is in stark contrast to the former Christie administrations immigration policy.
Back in 2015, then Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell announced that beginning that September, every foreign person enrolled in school, even children born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents, would be required to have a student permit and a passport with a residency stamp.
The student restrictions were part of a wider immigration policy introduced on November 1, 2014. That policy mandated, among other things, that every person in The Bahamas have a passport of their nationality with proof to legally reside and work in the country.
Some critics have said the policy unfairly targeted Haitians or persons of Haitian descent.
Lloyd also said there are too many subjects in the primary school system and not enough ‘play time’.
“I go around to the primary schools in the island and I ask, ‘How many times do these children go out to play?’ They say once a day, I say no sir that’s unacceptable,” he lamented.
“That’s why we so stiff as adults. We should play more. I said these students need to be outside at least twice a day, once in free play, once in structured play. Play is a fundamental child’s right. Play.
“They learn so much more by play but further, their brain develops exponentially through play. They are not tin soldiers to be sitting down in a classroom all bottled up looking at the teacher. That is not education. They are to play. Make it fun, they love it.”