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The economic downturn isn't the only reason private schools are receiving less aid from the government, according to Minister of Education Desmond Bannister, who said yesterday that the system of grants in aid to school boards has become "so skewed" that private school boards receive more money from the government than public schools.
"In this budget we will be giving the school board at the L.W. Young (Junior High School) $103,406. This is the largest grant that government has ever given to the school board at L.W. Young. We will also give the school board at the Doris Johnson High School $126,729, again the biggest grant ever given to this school board," said Bannister while contributing to debate on the 2010/2011 budget in the House of Assembly.
Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade announced yesterday that a police liaison officer will be assigned to each government school when schools re-open in September.
Greenslade and other government officials, including the Director of the Immigration Department Jack Thompson, met with public school principals during a forum at SuperClubs Breezes Resort yesterday morning to discuss crime and immigration related issues affecting the public school system.
School violence has been a major concern in public schools, especially in New Providence, over the last few years. The Department of Education and police have had to respond to fights, stabbings and at least one homicide on or near New Providence public schools.
"I've assured principals that they are fully in control of their schools and we stand in full support of them," Greenslade said.
"But we will be more than happy to ensure that there's a school liaison officer assigned to every school in The Bahamas. We have sufficient officers to deal with that and they should be available at all times to the schools and any issues that needs to be pushed further up will be handled by our officers."
Greenslade's announcement came fours years after the Free National Movement (FNM) administration dismantled the school policing program left in place by the last Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration.
This program involved stationing police at public schools.
That initiative was replaced with a community policing approach through which officers are stationed outside schools during peak hours (7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.).
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his government have held to the position that police officers do not belong in schools.
As the country continues to record poor national exam results, the government recently invested just over $2 million to outfit the nation's public schools with 'cutting edge' technology.
Overcrowding has worsened in public schools across New Providence, but particlarly in the southern division, where some institutions are accommodating double the number of students they were designed to facilitate, Education Director Lionel Sands told The Nassau Guardian this week.
Among the schools whose student populations are booming are Sadie Curtis Primary School, Cleveland Eneas Primary School, Garvin Tynes Primary School, Gerald Cash Primary School, Anatol Rodgers Hight School, C.V. Bethel High School and S.C. McPherson Junior High School.
Sands said each of those schools was designed to accommodate a maximum of 700 students, however, each school has more than 1,100 students registered.
Sands said 1,400 students attend C.V. Bethel and S.C. McPherson High Schools; and 1,300 attend Anatol Rodgers High School.
"We have overcrowding in southwest and southeast New Providence," Sands told The Nassau Guardian. "They have exceeded their capacity in terms of housing the maximum amount of students that are available for those schools.
"What happens is this will invariably increase the class size which, of course, is not the ideal thing for us.
"But of course, the reality is there has been a shift in population from the northern part of the island to the southern part of the island...creating the overcrowding in the south and there has not been, over the years, a recurrent building of schools as we establish these various communities in the southern part of the island."
In addition to the population shift, Sands said hundreds of students who were previously enrolled in various private schools have transferred to public institutions this school year.
Sands said the ministry has attempted to transfer some of the students to schools that are not as crowded. However, he said it is difficult to transfer students to schools outside of the area where they live.
"We can move students to some of the schools in the north where there are spaces available but when you're talking about moving first graders, that's a big problem," he said.
And while there is a serious need for the construction of additional schools, Sands said there is little money in the treasury to fund new schools.
The Ministry of Education controls 160 schools throughout the country. Approximately 53,000 students attended public schools this week.
The top performing public high schools in New Providence only managed to average a D in national examinations, according to a report from the Ministry of Education.
The document also shows that New Providence private schools received an average of C- in the 2012 Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams, compared to New Providence public schools, which received an average of D-.
C.I. Gibson, C. V. Bethel and C. R. Walker high schools each averaged a D in the BGCSE exams. They were the top performing schools on the public side.
Bahamas Home Schooling got an A- average on the private school side. However, only three exams were recorded for that school.
Lyford Cay School and South Haven Christian Academy received a B average, while Queen's College, St. Andrew's High and St. Augustine's College all received a B- average.
According to the report, Doris Johnson High, a public school, got an average of E+; PACE (a program for teen mothers) got an average of F and R. M. Bailey received an E average.
Of the eight public high schools in New Providence, three received a D average; three received a D- average; one received an E average and one received an E+ average.
As it relates to the private schools, the report shows that of the 36 institutions with recorded averages there was one A-; two Bs; three B-s; one C+; one C; five C-s; three D+s; two Ds; two D-s; six E+s; two Es; two E-s; four F+s; one F and one F-.
The worst performing private schools were Galilee Academy (F), and Pace Christian Academy (F-), according to the report.
The four private schools each averaging F+ were Discovery Learning, Freedom Baptist, Cherub Christian Academy and Akhepran.
As it relates to Family Island public schools, Abaco received a D- average; North Andros and the Berry Islands received a D- average; South Andros received a D average; Cat Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay received a D average; MICAL received a D- average; Eleuthera received a D+; Exuma and Ragged Island received a D average; Eastern Grand Bahama received a D average; Western Grand Bahama received a D; and Long Island received a C average.
A Nassau Guardian article by Kelsie Johnson, published recently, informed of an important milestone for the curriculum in government schools. The story disclosed the agreement between the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and two major sporting federations.
With Deputy Director of Education Ross Smith, Education Sports Unit Director Evon Wisdom, Bahamas Softball Federation (BSF) President Burkett Dorsett, New Providence Softball Association (NPSA) President Godfrey Burnside and Bahamas Baseball Federation (BBF) Secretary General Theodore Sweeting present, the agreement that baseball and softball will co-exist in the government schools became official.
This pioneer venture is in keeping with the new sports culture that is being driven by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Expanding the sporting landscape and providing facilities accordingly, is a key component of the present central administration. Just recently, the comprehensive sports complex in Flamingo Gardens was officially opened. A rather nice field that can accommodate both softball and baseball is in place. The government schools in the general area now have that facility available, and it can also now host visiting schools. It's all about broadening the base of school sports.
Hopefully, the private schools (not yet engaged in baseball play) will soon follow. Internationally, the sporting disciplines that are so similar in playing rules and regulations have made a joint application to become an official part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sports listing. There is the idea actually, that softball and baseball although operating separately, can function under one general banner to solidify the same objectives.
Locally, the inclusion of baseball in the government system provides yet another prime opportunity for scholarships. The BBF has blazed a trail in giving student/athletes scholarship situations. That organization is well-connected throughout the United States. It has been an avenue for hundreds of sports/educational scholarships over the last two decades. Now, just as students who have demonstrated extraordinary abilities in track and field, volleyball, and basketball are scouted and recruited to institutions, baseball in government schools will be another such forum.
Congratulations go out to the softball and baseball leaders from the two federations. While softball has for decades been part of the sports curriculum in all schools in the country, the concept of baseball is rather new. It is indeed good that the two sports that are so alike are now going a step further, joining forces, to propel both disciplines.
Of course, all of this is now possible, with the endorsement of the Government of The Bahamas following the advice given to Cabinet colleagues by Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald. It's a mandate indeed, according to the Guardian article, that came down from the central administration through Minister Fitzgerald. So, student-athletes in the government system across the archipelago can be prepared for a taste of baseball beginning in September.
For sure, the new adventure will be a "work in progress" for quite some time. It is a dimension however that is significant to the growth of sports in the government schools. Softball and one faction of baseball in the country are sharing efforts and ideas. Perhaps the nation is getting closer to the BBF and the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA) coming together under one banner.
A record number of primary schools from throughout The Bahamas will compete in the annual National Frank 'Pancho' Rahming Primary School Track and Field Championships, set to start on Wednesday.
The three-day meet has attracted more than 1,000 athletes from about 72 schools. Among the count are the 400 athletes from the various primary schools in the Family Islands who will be in New Providence on Tuesday. The meet which will run Wednesday-Friday at the original Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium, has a 10 a.m. start each day.
This is the second year the meet is being held in honor of Rahming, a long and dedicated individual, who has worked tirelessly on coordinating this and other track and field events. "I usually say it doesn't matter who the event is named after, I usually say it is the Primary School Track and Field Championships," said Rahming as he thanked the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture for putting his name on the event. "I am hoping that it is a good sign, and that the event is going to be bigger and better every year. The important thing about this event is it accomplishes what it is supposed to accomplish, and that is to ensure that primary school athletes get a chance to compete in an event that is well planned, organized properly and similar to the senior nationals. They can come to Nassau from the various islands and have the type of competition that they need to improve their performances. When you don't know your competition that is when you have to train harder.
"I notice that we have 32 teams, and we have 70 plus schools (in The Bahamas). That is good because you have majority of the Bahamian schools and athletes competing. This is really what the meet is for, to ensure that all the primary school athletes get a chance to compete in an event that is properly organized and planned. When they leave Nassau they can go back and say that they have competed against the best in The Bahamas at their age level. Thank you, minister, and thank you, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture."
The first national track meet, which brought athletes together from all around The Bahamas, was held in 1981. According to Rahming, this meet started out small with just the winners from each school coming over to compete. It eventually grew and developed where schools are able to bring a full team now. Now in its 31st year, Director of Sports in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Tim Munnings said the ministry is very excited to once again be hosting this event.
Munnings added: "We are in the 31st year in the Primary School Track and Field Championships. This is the second year that we have named the meet after Mr. Frank 'Pancho' Rahming who is one of the founders of the meet. We are very honored to have him here today to continue this tradition. This event we expect to be the largest of all the events since we have hosted. We have a number of athletes represented from all of the islands coming in. Right now, there are probably close to or maybe over 400 young athletes coming in from the Family Islands inclusive of the public and primary schools, we are over 1,000 athletes.
This is going to be a very major event for these young kids. They are always excited to come and always looking forward to it. The parents, family and friends are looking forward to it. And we are expecting to have a very good time."
Also launching their support behind Rahming and thanking the Minister for naming the meet after him were the executives of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) and the members of the Bahamas Association of Certified Officials (BACO). President of the BAAA Mike Sands who also spoke on behalf of Bahamasair referred to Rahming as a renowned technical expert who has freely given of himself on a daily basis. Sands also noted that Bahamasair is the aircraft of choice for this year's meet.
Five full days of activities are planned for the 19th staging of the Anglican Schools Festival in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
The all-out battle between the four Anglican high schools in the country, which was previously just a track and field meet, has branched off to include elocution, spelling, music, cheerleading and other sporting disciplines such as swimming, basketball, softball and soccer. Bishop Michael Eldon School will host the highly anticipated showdown set for February 8-12 in Freeport. The host Warriors will be joined by the St. John's College Giants and the St. Anne's Blue Waves out of New Providence, and the newest Anglican school in the country, St. Andrew's, in Exuma.
"We're delighted to be putting on the festival because it is a means of fellowship for the students, staff and parents of all of the schools," said Bishop of the Anglican Diocese in The Bahamas Laish Boyd. "It's a massive undertaking and we are very grateful to our Anglican educational department for putting it together. Interaction of this caliber fosters family togetherness. It challenges our young people to be at their best in a number of disciplines, and we are looking forward to a wonderful time together in Grand Bahama as an Anglican school family."
The opening ceremony of the five-day meet is set for Wednesday February 8, at 9 a.m., inside the Bishop Michael Eldon Auditorium. At that time, the Venerable Harry Bain, archdeacon of the Northern Bahamas and rector of the Pro-Cathedral of Christ The King, in Freeport, will be recognized for his contribution to the Bishop Michael Eldon School (formerly Freeport Anglican High) where he served as principal, from 1989-1998. The swimming competition will get underway at 12 noon that day, and the spelling competition will wrap up the day's activities, at 6 p.m. that evening.
On Thursday February 9, the elocution contest will get things started at 9 a.m., the junior boys and senior girls will engage in preliminary softball competition, at 11 a.m., at the Grand Bahama (GB) Sports Complex, the basketball championships will get underway, at 3 p.m., at the St. George's gymnasium, and the cheerleading competition will close out day two of the meet.
As for that Friday, the soccer competition will get the ball rolling with a scheduled 9 a.m. start at the Bishop Michael Eldon soccer field, the finals of the junior boys and senior girls softball competition is set to begin at 11 a.m., and the track and field portion of the meet - 3,000 meters (m), 5,000m, 4x400m, high jump, triple jump and discus - will occur at the GB Sports Complex, starting at 3 p.m. Later that evening, a student social will be held inside the auditorium.
On Saturday, track and field will continue at the GB Sports Complex, starting at 10 a.m., and a staff social is planned for later that night, at 7 p.m. inside the auditorium.
The meet will close out on Sunday with a church service at the Christ The King Anglican Church, in Freeport, Grand Bahama, starting at 10 a.m., and a 'Festival of Fine Arts' competition, getting underway, at 3 p.m. inside the school auditorium.
All of the Anglican schools will be closed on Friday, February 10, and organizers are encouraging alumni and parents to attend this year's event.
"We are really looking forward to this event," said Dr. Judith Tynes-Jones, director of the Anglican Central Education Authority (ACEA). "We are encouraging all of the old scholars to come out and support this event. We're just looking for a wonderful time where we could work on children spiritually, academically, physically, emotionally and socially. We are looking at developing the whole child," she added.
Dr. Tynes-Jones said that what the event does, is foster school spirit, and brings students and staff together as an Anglican community. The objective is to get the respective parties working together on the whole child. The Anglican social gathering rotates on an annual basis between New Providence, Grand Bahama and Exuma. The principal of the oldest school in the diocese, St. John's College (SJC), Antoinette Storr said that her SJC Giants will be coming with a full team, ready to bring the overall title back to the 'Land of the Giants'.
"As the lead school, we expect to come back with the championship. We expect to annihilate the competition," said Storr. "I think that we have a very balanced team. For the first time, we will be allowing our choir to compete. We have a very powerful choir, and that is going to be launched this time. We also plan to do a very good job in elocution, and of course, we are always strong in spelling and sports.
"What we are intending to accomplish is camaraderie among the students - the rapport. We want the children to really get together and have a good time - interact with each other through sports, elocution and the other areas. We are going to promote what Anglican schools always do - promote wholeness in the development of all of our children."
St. John's College has been in existence since 1947. The school will have its annual 'Mardi Gras' under the theme, 'Celebrating 65 years of Excellence', the following weekend at the school's Bethel Avenue campus.
As for the other Anglican school in New Providence, St. Anne's School Principal Cynthia Wells said that her entire school is motivated to re-capture the championship it last held in 2006.
"All of the students are being encouraged to play their roles to the best of their abilities, and cheer for their team," said Wells. "We're normally very strong in elocution, cheerleading and softball. We have a strong basketball team as well, and this year, we expect our track team to make a very good showing. The camaraderie is what is important though. You are supposed to come away from the festival having made a new friend in each of the schools and that is our intention," she added.
The St. Andrew's team is expected to charter a Bahamasair flight to the nation's second city for the event, while the Giants and St. Anne's Blue Waves are planning separate boat excursions. Parents and old scholars are asked to contact the respective schools to organize their travel arrangements.
The student population at St. John's College and L.W. Young Junior High School are richer for the civic efforts of Bahamas Ferries through the organization's "Discover Your Bahamas Student Educational Program" which donated computers to both institutions.
Bahamas Ferries donated computers to St. John's College and L.W. Young Jr. Schools, after students from both schools participated in the Bahamas Ferries "Discover Your Bahamas Student Educational Program". The donation was made recently during a reception on board the M/V Seawind.
St. John's College won the primary division and the school received two desktop computers and two color printers. This was the second consecutive year that St. John's College won in the Primary Division.
After the win St. John's senior mistress, Nyoka Bethel says Bahamas Ferries is like home for the students at St. John's, having traveled with the company on field trips to Eleuthera, Abaco and Andros, which she says has been a learning experience for students.
L. W. Young Jr. High School won the high school division and the school received three laptops and a desktop computer.
Schools must select sporting equipment, musical instruments or computers that will benefit the entire student body.
Bahamas Ferries' "Discover Your Bahamas Student Educational Program" was started in 2000. The educational field trips are designed to showcase the unique environment, history and culture of Abaco, Andros and Eleuthera. Since the program was rebranded in 2004, Bahamas Ferries has donated more than $50,000 to schools and in the past three years, taken over 14,000 students, teachers and parents on educational field trips to the Family Islands.
The educational field trips provides the practical application to what is being taught in the classroom thereby bringing text book to life as students have the opportunity to explore wetlands, visit a pineapple farm or study the nesting habits of the Abaco parrot. The day-away and overnight field trips have been developed based on the government and private schools' curriculum and schools have the option of customizing the itinerary to satisfy their specific field of study. Bahamas Ferries "Discover Your Bahamas Student Educational Program" is suitable for kindergarten to university students.