By Nadav D Goren, deputy chief of mission, Embassy of Israel, accredited to The Bahamas
COVID-19 has already fundamentally changed our lives, ushering in immense public health challenges, economic instability and social isolation. Amidst the crisis, each country has been forced to make difficult decisions to balance health concerns with other core values, such as education. International Education Day, marked on January 24, occurs this year in the wake of a global learning disruption of unprecedented scale and severity. In The Bahamas, the initial limited month-long closure of schools had to be prolonged due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and ended up disrupting an entire school year. However, Bahamians, as I have learned throughout my tenure as a diplomat accredited to the country, do not shy away from challenges.
I personally learned of the resilience of Bahamians when I traveled to Grand Bahama in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. At the time, I was part of a joint mission of the State of Israel and the NGO IsraAID, which intervened to provide an emergency solution for the lack of potable drinking water, while working side-by-side with local authorities to advance a long-term, sustainable water management solution. I will not forget my conversations with local families who, weeks after losing all of their possessions, focused on the future, determined to rebuild their lives.
With that same spirit, in the past months, The Bahamas has exhibited leadership and flexibility in reopening schools. The government has introduced a gradual return-to-school strategy, including various educational models — fully remote study, fully in-person attendance as well as a hybrid version.
For Israelis as well, education is a precious cultural legacy and a fundamental value recognized widely as a key to any prosperous future. Against this backdrop, the State of Israel and IsraAID offered its assistance to the Ministry of Education of The Bahamas in their important mission to ensure access to safe, quality education.
Through this partnership, hygiene items and personal protective equipment (PPE) were distributed to all five public secondary schools on Grand Bahama, among the worst affected by Hurricane Dorian, where communities are still working to overcome the immense damage caused by the storm more than a year ago. Overall, this program provided support for 2,400 students and 300 school staff members, as well as more than 13,500 Bahamians who were reached with hygiene promotion and disease prevention messaging. According to feedback provided by the schools, after introducing these measures to protect students and staff from COVID, school attendance increased by more than 10 percent, with both parents and children feeling safer to return to classes.
This collaboration, based on a shared commitment of both Israel and The Bahamas to education, sparks hope in me as I look to the challenging months that still lay ahead. As was the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, I again have seen the remarkable nature of the Bahamian people, who will not bow in the face of adversity — be it a hurricane or a pandemic — but rather insist on striding forward.
The Embassy of Israel in Mexico is concurrent for Belize and The Bahamas.