Education report revealed over 1,000 students unaccounted for
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd yesterday acknowledged Hurricane Dorian exposed “deficiencies” in the educational management system in The Bahamas.
Lloyd expressed the need for the government to exercise a sense of urgency in being able to determine the composition of its schools at any instant, as he fielded questions outside Cabinet.
He was responding to questions from the media in reference to a Department of Education report published by Eyewitness News Online, which revealed hundreds of students remain unaccounted nearly two months after the storm.
According to School Registration Coordinator Zane Lightbourne, those students remain unaccounted for because there was no strategy to process displaced youth.
Lloyd said: “What Dorian did my friend, Dorian exposed the deficiencies in our educational management and this is why digitizing our system is so critical because we need to know at a snap of a finger… how many students we have in an island or in a school or in a district.
“[We need to know] exactly how many teachers we have; how many administrators we have; and exactly what those compositions are. We need to know that at the fingertips and we don’t at this moment. It is now still too much [of] a manual process and that is unfair because today what drives effective decision making is data, timely data.
He said: “Data that is available to decision makers, so they can exercise for the benefit of their clients — in our case, our children — what is their best interest.”
The report prepared by the Department of Education, dated November 4, indicates 2,835 students were displaced by Hurricane Dorian based on school database records; however, only 1,539 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.”
When asked how the government would resolve the deficiencies Dorian exposed in education, Lloyd said: “That what we are doing now with the $17 million digitization process; by increasing the sense of urgency in our administrators, that reports have got to be sent in a given when they are supposed to be sent in.
“If a report is due on the 31st of October, it is due on the 31st of October, not November 6, not November 15, not December 4.”
He continued: “More and more of our people are beginning to recognize and understand how important data is. That information that we need to use for the benefit of effective decision making.”
The Ministry of Education launched a $17 million technology upgrade in September 2018 when it signed with the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to lay fiber optic cables and capability in numerous public schools, satellite offices and other buildings.
In January, the ministry signed agreements with Cable Bahamas Limited and Sam’s Business Machines for the second installment of its technology upgrade, which is expected to see every school in The Bahamas “digitally revolutionized”.
The third phase of the digitization program involves the implementation of an education management information system (EMIS), which is expected to include the management of the student enrollment process; electronic, integrated communication among parents, teachers, administrators and the community at large; administration and reporting tools; a human resource management system, among other tools.
The undertaking is expected to be completed in January 2020.