Rights Bahamas to take legal action over children denied school entrance

Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd.

Human rights advocacy group – Right Bahamas, threatened to take legal action against government Wednesday, if it does not allow all children – immigrants included – the right to education regardless of their status.

The move comes after Minister of Education Jeffrey Llyod announced Tuesday outside Cabinet that no child in The Bahamas will be denied the right to education. But there must, he said, be proof of citizenship before the child is allowed to be accepted into a school.

Rights Bahamas responded via a statement yesterday where Dawrin Thompson, Rights Bahamas Education Committee Chairman said, that the this constitutes a direct violation of the policy outlined by Lloyd.

According to Thompson, Lloyd told educators that they have no right to make any cementing decision regarding who they choose to accept into the school, pending the child’s nationality.

The statement read: “You have no right, you have no authority to deny anyone access to our education system. This is crucial.”

It continued, “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.”

The minister was alluding to the fact that any effort to impede any students access to the classroom, violates both the Bahamas Education Act and the constitution.

He continued, “it is also a fundamental breach of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 of which states – everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.

“Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

Thompson emphasized in his statement that every child that is presently living in The Bahamas, regardless of their status, their parents status, or their nationality, has the right to an education and that there are no exceptions to this.

“Education is a fundamental human right and we intend to hold those that breach this right responsible,” he stated.

Thompson then requested that “all schools in The Bahamas cease and desist demanding proof of status at registration immediately.

“We also call upon the Department of Education to uphold their minister’s stated policy, the Laws of The Bahamas and the International agreements to which our country is signatory.

“The new school year is upon us, and if this problem is not rectified, it could result in many children being unable to register in time for class. That cannot be allowed to happen.”