#Bahamas, October 5, 2017 – Nassau – Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President, Mrs. Belinda Wilson, expressed full support in helping students of Dominica get back to normalcy as quickly as possible upon her return from a humanitarian trip to Dominica on Monday (October 2, 2017), as part of the Bahamian contingent that was led by Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis.
“They want to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible [as] they have had just about all of their schools destroyed, and so we have to make sure that we assist them.” She added, “We will see how best we can accommodate them.”
Prime Minister Minnis had announced in the House of Assembly (Wednesday, September 27) that the Government of The Bahamas proposed to temporarily relax the immigration rules for three categories of students from Dominica who wished to continue their education in The Bahamas.
Resident’s Permits are to be issued to students from Dominica wishing to study in The Bahamas – with approval of parents.
The policy will cover three categories of students who may apply. They include children who have relatives in The Bahamas and who can find lodging and support from family members; college students who may wish to study at the University of The Bahamas and who seek boarding at UB; and children of parents employed in companies, banks (etcetera) which have offices in The Bahamas. (Temporary employment transfers can be arranged with these institutions.)
Prime Minister Minnis said the decision was made in an attempt to assist the children of Dominica as children are among the demographics that can be more adversely impacted, psychologically, by natural disasters such as hurricanes.
Mrs. Wilson said she was able to have a number of discussions with Prime Minister Skerrit. She observed she expects the numbers of students to be low as many of the students have already left the devastated island to live with relatives in neighbouring island-nations such as Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and Trinidad and Tobago.
“We will be in a better position to know how many students may be coming after the [registration] process is completed, but right now I don’t think it will be a large number, so we await that data so that we can know how to go forward from here,” Mrs. Wilson said.
The BUT President said, “You would also note that the private schools have opened their doors, so when we get the numbers from the registration and we know the ages of the students, then we will be able to assist the Ministry of Education in placing them in schools that may not have large populations. If the teachers come with them, that will be even better because they can actually focus on their students,” Mrs. Wilson added.
Mrs. Wilson said Dominica’s educational infrastructure consisted of 40 primary schools, 20 secondary schools, and a tertiary institution, “most of which have been destroyed.” She noted the ones that were not destroyed by Hurricane Maria are being used as shelters.
“So what they are also trying to do within another four weeks’ time is to see how best they can find somewhere else for the displaced citizens to be housed so that they can begin their educational process. Remember now, they want to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible, they have had just about all of their schools destroyed, and so we have to make sure that we assist them.”
Mrs. Wilson said her discussions with Prime Minister Skerrit and education officials on the ground in Dominica also centred on any other technical assistance that may be offered.
“I would have also asked the Prime Minister (Skerrit) if he would need some technical assistance from us based on their curriculum and the preparation of their examinations and he said yes he will, and so that is something I will discuss with the Minister of Education to ensure that our Testing and Evaluation Section is able to assist Dominica.
“Both systems would have support from Cambridge in London (and) so we may have to prepare some scripts for them to assist them in that vein. Whatever it is we can do to assist we are prepared to do that,” Mrs. Wilson added.