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News Article

April 30, 2014
Violence against women and the responsibility of the state pt. 2

CARICOM countries have ratified both the 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 1994 Inter-American Convention of the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.
Both conventions recognize that violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights and is a form of gender-based discrimination. Both conventions utilize the definition of gender-based violence as set forth in the U.N.'s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW).
Further, The Bahamas is a signatory to the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) 2003 gender mainstreaming strategies. This platform of action concerns the process of developing policies and programs that are gender sensitive and equitable and lead towards gender equality and the positive transformation of gender relations.
It refers categorically to "the right of all to live free of violence and the fear of violence, in particular, the right of women and girls to be free of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence", outlined in the Plan of Action to 2005: Framework for Mainstreaming Gender into key CARICOM Programmmes.
In addition, the following international agreements make specific reference to violence against women: Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1990, the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action on Human Rights of 1993 and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Women of 1995.
The state has primary responsibility for the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence in such areas as legislation, the criminal justice sector, economic and social policies, health and social services, school curriculum, public education and awareness.
It has the capacity and mechanisms to coordinate all sectors of society such as schools, local communities, health and social welfare agencies, the media, churches, corporations and international agencies in addressing successfully the issue.
There has, however, to be a political will on the part of the government that is focused, strategic and committed to the goal of prevention and elimination of violence against women.
No doubt, such a political will has to crystallize around the sustained action of a women's movement that not only has a clear understanding of the causes of violence against women and girls but also a clarity in regard to its own power to demand that the state exercise its political will in this regard.
In the In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General of 2006, a human rights-based analysis of the causes of violence against women and girls is stated as follows:
"The central premise of the analysis is that the specific causes of such violence and the factors that increase the risk of its occurrence are grounded in the broader context of systemic gender-based discrimination against women and other forms of subordination.
"Such violence is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men reflected in both public and private life.
"Historically, gender roles -- the socially constructed roles of women and men -- have been ordered hierarchically, with men exercising power and control over women.
"Male dominance and female subordination have both ideological and material bases. Patriarchy has been entrenched in social and cultural norms, institutionalized in the law and political structure and embedded in local and global economies. It has also been ingrained in formal ideologies and in public discourse.
"Patriarchy restricts women's choices but does not render women powerless, as evidenced by the existence of women's movements and successful claims by women for their rights."
I draw to the attention of the members of the House of Assembly to the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on violence against women. The IPU is the international organization of parliaments established in 1889.
It supports the work of the United Nations and cooperates with regional inter-parliamentary organizations and non-governmental organizations.
In 2008 at an international conference, A Parliamentary Response to Violence Against Women, held in Geneva, the IPU identified key elements and strategies for the prevention of violence against women. One of the six priorities for parliamentarians to consider is as follows:
"Parliamentarians must build their parliaments' capacities to take action to put an end to violence against women. They should look at what parliamentary mechanisms can be developed to support work on violence against women. The establishment of a specific parliamentary committee on violence against women could be an option."
I strongly urge that a parliamentary committee be convened for the specific purpose of addressing the issue of prevention and elimination of violence against women.
In light of remarks made by Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller that he used to beat an ex-girlfriend, this committee's first task might be to build its capacity through a profound understanding and education of the causes of violence against women.
There are many resources available in the wider community to facilitate such understanding. Further, the IPU report itself lays out a systematic plan of action for the work of a parliamentary committee in preventing and eliminating violence against women.
Finally, I refer us to the World Health Organization report entitled Violence Prevention: The Evidence (2010) that states as follows:
"Despite the fact that violence has always been present, the world does not have to accept it as an inevitable part of the human condition...Violence can be prevented. This is not an article of faith, but a statement based on evidence."
o Marion Bethel is a poet, short story writer, essayist and attorney.

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News Article

May 29, 2014
Primary schools track meet gets underway

The first day of the Frank 'Pancho' Rahming Track and Field Meet got underway with a bang yesterday at the old Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium.
The area was flocked with young children and parents who showed up for the opening day of the primary schools track and field championship. The attendance on opening day easily surpassed last year's number, as schools from all over the country were represented. A record 66 schools are taking part in the meet, and the schools from New Providence were actually out-numbered by schools from the Family Islands.
"We started late today. I think we had a mix-up because we were unable to have the scratch meet yesterday, but it seems to be running well since it started. It is important that all the Family Islands become involved because you want to give them the same opportunities that you give to young athletes in Grand Bahama and New Providence. You want to give to primary schools all over the country the same chance," said Rahming.
"I'm glad to see that Acklins is here this year, and Inagua sent a group of athletes out, so it's good to know that more of the islands are participating. It's good for them to just come and see what it's like and probably if they like it this year then next year you would have more schools entering and participating. The only thing about that is the meet will probably go longer because you will have more rounds to go through, but I guess that's what you want. It's a good dilemma to be in," he added.
After the first day, the Family Islands are in control. A combined team from North and Central Andros has a first day total of 30 points. Queen's College is tied for second place with Sts. Francis and Joseph, each with 23 points.
Hugh Campbell Primary and Temple Christian are tied for fourth with 20 points each, while the Eleuthera Destroyers are fourth with 15.50 points. Cleveland Eneas sits in fifth with 14.50 points; Abaco District is sixth with 11.50 points. St. Andrew's is seventh with nine points, and Walter Parker Primary and Kingsway Academy are tied for eighth with eight points apiece. Bartlett Hill Primary, Martin Town Primary and St. John's College are tied for 10th with six points each, and Yellow Elder follows with four points.
Lanqique Thompson from the Eleuthera Destroyers dominated competition in the 'C' category girls' 400 meter (m). She finished the race in a time of 1:14.09.
Oliver Deangelo from North and Central Andros took no prisoners as he blew by the competition in the 'A' division boys' long jump. He finished with a best leap of 5.08m (16' 8").
Competition will continue today, starting at 9 a.m.

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News Article

June 03, 2014
Understanding and managing menopause

ust like the adage "once a man, twice a child", every female, if she lives long enough will have to go through what is known as menopause which is also known as the 'change of life'. But it's not a one-size-fits-all change; menopause affects women differently, with hot flashes and night sweats being the most commonly discussed symptoms. However, there many other symptoms that can impact a woman's quality of life, and there are a variety of methods women can try to manage the often frustrating and life-altering symptoms.
Natural menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstrual periods, determined retrospectively after a woman has experienced 12 months of amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation) without any other obvious pathological or physiological cause. Menopause before age 40 is considered abnormal and is referred to as primary ovarian insufficiency (premature ovarian failure).
The menopausal transition or perimenopause begins on average, four years before a woman's final menstrual period and includes a number of physiologic changes -- irregular menstrual cycles, marked hormonal fluctuations, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood symptoms, vaginal dryness, changes in libido, bone demineralization and changes in lipid profile.
According to Dr. Lorne Charles, obstetrician and gynecologist, while menopause is a frustrating transition period for women, there are many things that they can do safely to mitigate the effects of menopause. He noted that menopause is generally viewed as a taboo topic as there is a lot of apprehension concerning the subject matter, and sometimes even distress when the word 'menopause' is mentioned.
Speaking at a recent Doctors Hospital Distinguished Lecture Series, Dr. Charles tried to place menopause into a more positive context. He said the only reason it is talked about today in the first instance is due to human life expectancy increasing over the years.
"If you wind the clock back 200 years, many women would not have made it to menopause, so with increased life expectancy in the modern era comes transitions that we would have never seen before and it's all part of life, and it's all about inquiring the knowledge about these transitions and managing them consciously so that you have the most healthy and most disease-free life possible," said the physician.
According to the doctor, who practices out of all major medical facilities on the island, the science of menopause is not clearly understood, but the most common belief is the minute a fetus is conceived and the sex is determined, the female fetus has a fixed number of eggs (follicles) that may ultimately unite with sperm to produce a new human being at the appropriate time. He said a female starts out with approximately two million eggs and by the time she is born, the number of eggs has already reduced to one million. By the time girls reach puberty, their eggs number at 500,000; with every subsequent menstrual cycle, one egg is released and the number reduces. Throughout a female's life, the doctor said, said there is a progressive depletion of follicles, which are ultimately depleted to the point of a conspicuous hormonal transition, which is what menopause is as a concept.
"Natural menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstrual periods, determined retrospectively after a woman has experienced 12 months of amenorrhea without any other obvious pathological or physiological cause. Menopause before the age of 40 is considered to be abnormal."
Average age
According to Dr. Charles, the average age a woman should expect to go through menopause is 51, although the age range can vary between 45 and 55 years old.
"If you are 45 years or older and you have not had a menstrual period in 12 months, there is a good chance that you are menopausal. Most women in this group do not need any lab testing to confirm menopause, especially if they are having symptoms such as hot flashes or vaginal dryness.
Prior to menopause, women will go through a pre-menopausal period that includes the late reproductive years in the 40s when menopause has not yet arrived but women may start to have changes that are indicative of its coming. Women then transition into the menopausal stage (peri-menopause), which Dr. Charles believes is very noticeable in many women, and which is divided into two segments -- early transition and late transition -- before menopause eventually takes place.
During the early transition, women typically first notice a lengthening in the intermenstrual interval (in contrast to the shortening that occurs in the late reproductive years. Normal intermenstrual interval during the reproductive years is 25 to 35 days; during the menopausal transition this may increase to 40 to 55 days.
During late transition, after the initial lengthening of intermenstrual interval, women develop more dramatic menstrual cycle changes with skipped cycles, episodes of amenorrhea and an increasing frequency of anovulatory cycles. According to the doctor, this stage lasts anywhere from one to three years before the final menstrual period.
Menopause timing
Although the median age at natural menopause is 51.4 years, according to Dr. Charles, there is considerable variability around the onset of menopause, which affects five percent of women after age 55, five percent between ages 40 and 55 and 90 percent between age 45 and 55. Timing is affected by a number of factors -- genetics, ethnicity, smoking and whether the woman has had a hysterectomy.
"Usually in families [mothers and daughters], the females have similar lengths. It varies among races as well. Smoking can bring about menopause two years earlier, and hysterectomy - once you remove the ovaries, menopause is instantaneous. But studies have shown, even if you leave the ovaries in with the uterus absent, by someone unknown mechanism, it also brings on menopause."
The most common symptom during the menopausal transition are hot flashes which he said occur in up to 80 percent of women in some cultures. A hot flash typically begins as a sudden sensation of heat centered on the upper chest and face that rapidly becomes generalized. The sensation of heat lasts from two to four minutes, is often associated with profuse perspiration and occasionally palpitations, and is sometimes followed by chills and shivering and a feeling of anxiety. Hot flashes usually occur several times per day, although the range may be from only one or two each day to as many as one per hour during the day and night. Hot flashes are particularly common at night. When hot flashes occur at night, they are typically described as night sweats.
According to the physician, only 20 to 30 percent of women seek medical attention for treatment of hot flashes, even though more than 80 percent of them will have them for more than one year. Untreated, hot flashes stop spontaneously within four to five years of onset in most women. He said that some women have hot flashes that persist for many years, with nine percent reporting persistent symptoms after age 70.
"The hot flashes in themselves aren't harmful, but they're distressing," he said.
A distressing feature of hot flashes is their tendency to disrupt sleep due to them occurring more frequently at night. Women may experience sleep disturbances even in the absence of hot flashes. During the transition to menopause, some women begin to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, even if night sweats are not a problem. The estimated prevalence of difficulty sleeping based on two longitudinal
cohort studies was 32 to 40 percent in the early menopausal transition, increasing to 38 to 46 percent in the late transition.
Sleep disturbances
"Many of the phenomenon that women experience overlap. If you wake up in the night with hot flashes, that will result in a sleep deficit. You're going to feel tired the next day, maybe a bit cranky, not motivated to work. True sleep disturbances exist in menopause, but often times it's a mixed issue, resulting from the other symptoms, the hot flashes etcetera. That is also a common phenomenon that, in turn, leads to fatigue, in some instances depression,
menstrual migraines. And all of this is related to the changes in hormones. How the body works is that if there is a change in hormonal levels that creates a symptom. Once a level remains consistent, the symptoms tend to subside, so all of this tumultuous experience is really for the transition. After a woman becomes established in menopause it tends to go away in the majority of cases.
Let's talk about sex
Apart from the hot flashes, Dr. Charles said the less discussed symptom, which is nonetheless significant is urogenital atrophy - the modern term for what was called atrophic vaginitis.
Menopause leads to a 95 percent reduction in estrogen production, a key hormone in females. The drop in estrogen concentration, exacerbated by the normal aging process, is responsible for the adverse changes seen with urogenital atrophy.
"The vagina goes through changes -- there is dryness, less secretion during sexual arousal, less blood flow, less glycogen, which provides a nutrient for a particular bacteria which gives a vagina its acid pH and that acid environment fends off some infections. But with the withdrawal of that, the vagina becomes more prone to infection. It becomes less capable of handling friction, sexual activity. There's loss of elasticity. The vagina is no longer able to stretch as it would have," said the doctor.
"[Estrogen] is a dominant hormone throughout a female's reproductive life, and that is the hormone that is withdrawn at menopause, so that is why there are so many symptoms for a female, because it is an essential part of her life prior to that point," he said.
According to the doctor, estrogen loss at menopause is constant and is there to stay; the loss of vaginal function and atrophy will be continuous and progressive.
"Ultimately there will be shortening and narrowing of the vaginal canal, thinning of the wall and it's going to be more susceptible to thinning and bruising, and all of this leads to a potentially vicious cycle if the woman is not cautious, because that leads to less sexual activity which makes the issue worse. The remedy for it involves frequent sexual activity. So, if there is a vicious cycle where the woman is apprehensive because of the changes and it's causing pain and she's not going to have sex she's going to make it worse and really complicate the issue."
The gynecologist/obstetrician said a lot has been done to find remedies to treat hot flashes -- with estrogen being the drug of choice and a "fad" for a while. Remembering his time at medical school, Dr. Charles believes hormone replacement therapy (HRT) became the new fountain of youth before a study showed that it put women at increased risk for breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
"Although exceptions can be made for estrogen therapy based on some extreme cases with women having hot flashes, I personally don't practice it," he said. "My reasoning for that is that separate from breast cancer, there are other issues that estrogen can cause in a female while trying to relieve those symptoms, and it's too difficult to assess who is at risk versus who is not."
Dr. Charles said many women do not discuss menopause as an issue with their healthcare provider. According to him, in The Bahamas, gynecologists generally do not highlight menopause as an issue because patients do not complain about it; most people believe it's a normal part of the aging process and don't complain. But he said it does not have to be that way.
Vaginal atrophy
When atrophy really sets in, it can create discomfort even in the absence of sex. The vagina can feel irritated, like a chapped lip with dryness and pain which Dr. Charles said can be distressing.
The first line of treatment for vaginal atrophy or dryness is moisturizers and lubricants. According to Dr. Charles, through regular use of vaginal moisturizing agents, symptoms of vaginal dryness can be managed, however, while the agents may improve coital comfort and increase vaginal moisture, they do not reverse most atrophic vaginal changes. As such, those products are useful mostly for women with mild symptoms.
Women who are sexually active with a partner have fewer symptoms related to vaginal atrophy.
"Since vaginal atrophy results in a loss of tissue elasticity, in addition to lubrication, this benefit likely derives from mechanical stretching of the vulvovaginal tissue or increased vaginal blood flow."
The obstetrician/gynecologist said low dose vaginal estrogen therapy is the most effective treatment for moderate to severe symptoms of vaginal atrophy. The therapy restores the lining of the vagina and recreates lubrication, treating the problem of dryness effectively; the benefits to the urinary tract are realized with estrogen creams in the vagina. That use of estrogen therapy is appropriate for women with symptoms of vaginal atrophy in the setting of low estrogen levels, provided that there are no contraindications to the therapy -- women with estrogen-dependent tumors. Dr. Charles said vaginal estrogen therapy leads to restoration of the normal vaginal pH and microflora, increased vaginal secretions and decreased vaginal dryness.
Prior to initiating vaginal estrogen, there are some conditions that should be excluded. Women with postmenopausal bleeding should be evaluated for endometrial hyperplasia or cancer; women with urinary tract symptoms should be evaluated for urinary tract infection or other conditions such as interstitial cystitis, or urinary tract malignancy.
"Low dose vaginal estrogen therapy may be used indefinitely, based on the low risk of adverse effects, although clinical trials to date have not followed women beyond one year," he said.
Cognitive changes and osteoporosis
According to the doctor, women often describe problems with memory loss and difficulty concentrating during the menopausal transition and menopause.
"There can be some cognitive changes in menopause. It's not known necessarily that it's due to menopause itself, or if it's just the aging process, but there could be memory loss, difficulty concentrating after menopause, and it's thought to be related mostly to the transition which is the peri-menopausal period. It could be a complex combination of factors," he said.
The other big concern with menopause is osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone mass, micro-architectural disruption and skeletal fragility, resulting in decreased bone strength and an increased risk of fracture. Dr. Charles believes that the majority of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis have bone loss related to estrogen deficiency and age. He said osteoporosis has no clinical manifestation until there is a fracture, of which vertebral fracture is the most common clinical manifestation of osteoporosis. Most of the fractures are asymptomatic and diagnosed as an incidental finding on chest or abdominal x-ray. Other fractures, like hip fractures, are relatively common in osteoporosis; hip fractures affect up to 15 percent of women and five percent of men by 80 years of age. Distal radius fractures (Colles fractures) may occur and are more common in women shortly after menopause.
Medics believe that all postmenopausal women with osteoporosis should receive adequate calcium (500 to 1,000 milligrams per day) and vitamin D (a total of 800 international units daily). Dr. Charles recommends that the first measure is lifestyle changes, which should include regular exercise, smoking cessation, counseling on fall prevention and avoidance of heavy alcohol use. In addition, affected patients should avoid, if possible, drugs that increase bone loss such as glucocorticoids.
Bisphosphanates are also recommended in the treatment of postmenopausal women older than 50 with a history of hip or vertebral fracture or with osteoporosis.
Dr. Charles said bisphosphanates are very effective, but hard to take and are extremely hard on the stomach orally. They should not be given to patients with upper gastrointestinal disease, and should be discontinued in patients who develop any symptoms of esophagitis. The alternative to the oral medication is an intravenous dose.
There are many things that can be done safely to mitigate the effects of menopause for women. Dr. Charles believes that the stage should also be seen as an opportunity, separate and apart from addressing those symptoms, for a woman to do a general medical assessment.
"Once that transition comes along, at least consciously, mammograms every year, pap smears every year, colonoscopy at age 50 and above which is associated with endometrial cancer and just generally a complete visit to the gynecologist to counsel and advise what to expect, because separate and apart from the symptoms of menopause itself and the impact it has on the body at that age and beyond, cancers are a more pertinent issue and a woman should be well educated on screening, avoidance and prevention at that age," he said.

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News Article

February 20, 2014
RBC continues to back Student of the Year Awards

RBC ROYAL Bank says it will continue supporting the Bahamas Primary School Student of the Year Awards.

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News Article

June 04, 2014
A young lady who strives to always do her best

There's an adage that goes "like mother, like daughter", and in the case of Stacey Williams and her daughter Kayashia Williams, that saying is apt. Kayashia's mom has had a strong influence on her daughter's educational pursuits and long-term goals.
Kayashia, a 3.88 grade point average (GPA) student, who will commence her junior year at Bethune-Cookman University (BCU) in the fall, has found that both her love for numbers and growing up with her mother, a private banking loan administrator who has worked in the financial sector all of her professional life, have played a role in her decision to tackle a double major in accounting and finance.
"I have a love for dealing with numbers -- not necessarily mathematics, but numbers in general - and because my mom works in the financial field, I was attracted to it," said the 19-year-old.
Kayashia plans to obtain her doctorate degree and said her long-term plans include landing a position in the financial sector, working specifically in financial auditing or analysis with an accounting firm. She ultimately wants to open her own business.
Kayashia, the daughter of Stacey and Gerald Williams, is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society chapter at BCU. She was accepted into the honor program after her freshman year by virtue of finishing in the top 15 finish of her class, together with her known leadership ability and service.
As a part of the honors college, it was expected that she would set the standard for other BCU students, exemplifying excellence, integrity and high standards. As an added perk, Williams was able to move into the honors dormitory with like-minded academics.
To be accepted into the honors society, Kayashia had to maintain a GPA of 3.00. It was a goal she considered easy, so she set a personal objective of obtaining and maintaining a GPA of 3.4 or higher, in her quest to be accepted into the society.
She also wrapped up her second year with a perfect record - "A" grades in all subjects, including principles of accounting I; principles of accounting I lab; statistics I; leadership and professional development; ancient to late medieval humanities; applied business calculus and physical science.
The St. John's College graduate has made the honor roll since her primary school days; her academics have always been a priority and now that she's in college, she says they have become that much more important.
"In high school I did not take education as seriously as I do now. I took it seriously, but now that I'm in college, I know that I now have to study, whereas in the past it was like, 'let me cram the night before'. In high school I always just made the honor roll, hovering around 3.00, but I now strive to do better than that, aiming for the 3.4...3.8 mark," said Williams.
The honors student makes studying a priority. If she has an evening class, she uses her free time during the day to revise or studies during the night after her dance practice. Not your average college student who is always looking for a party, Williams knows when to give herself a break to "ease her mind".
Her mother's only child, Williams said it makes her happy to know that she is able to make her mother proud. She attributes it all to her mom.
"[My mother's] hard work has pushed me to not let obstacles keep me from pursuing my educational goals and striving to be my best," she said. "Getting an education means striving to do my best at all times and not depending on anyone to push me, but wanting to do my best to make others proud of my accomplishment."
A well-rounded teenager, Williams is no stranger to extracurricular activities.
She was in a number of clubs in high school, and the trend hasn't stopped since she got to college.
At home for the summer, the college student is hoping to secure a summer job in the financial sector, but she isn't putting all her eggs in one basket. Refusing to remain idle, Williams has signed up for a summer class at The College of The Bahamas, where she will study business law.
"Seeing as I'm doing a double major, and I don't want to graduate a semester behind, I decided to take the summer course at COB because I want to be right on time with my May 2016 undergrad degrees," she said.
As she strives to continue to excel, Williams encourages her peers to do the same, despite the obstacles they may face. She believes excelling means prioritizing.

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News Article

June 05, 2014
Outstanding leadership and academic achievement celebrated

The prospect of receiving an award for being academically exceptional was never at the forefront of Ricara Skippings' mind as she matriculated through her bachelor of business administration (accounting) program at The College of The Bahamas (COB). She said she was simply following the sage advice of her mother.
On Wednesday, May 28, when scores of high achievers of the college's 2014 commencement class were honored during a special awards ceremony, Ricara was leading the pack. She completed her program with distinction, earning the School of Business' top awards as well as the college's two primary honors.
"I really did not expect this because I actually was working to make my term grades and get a sense of self accomplishment and do my best in every course. I never thought about awards. That was never at the forefront of my mind," she said.
"My mum would always say, you are not competing with the person sitting next to you in the classroom, you are competing against the person sitting in China, Germany, Africa, New Zealand. This is a global environment and if all you think you have to focus on is the person sitting in front of you, then you have big problems."
Ricara humbly accepted the School of Business award, donated by Fidelity Bank and Trust, and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Award for Academic Excellence. Many other graduands were honored in various schools - from mathematics, physics and technology to English, education and communication and creative arts - for being high achievers.
Acting President of COB Dr. Earla Carey-Baines commended them for their perseverance.
"In the academic arena, they had set themselves apart as scholars and leaders worthy of accolades and emulation. We salute all of our award recipients, as these past years have not been easy ones. The achievement of a college degree is fraught with many tests and challenges. To succeed in college requires commitment, perseverance and sacrifice. You sit before us, not only because you have succeeded, but because you have excelled."
Randol Dorsett is a partner at law firm Graham Thompson and chairman of the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority. In 2001 when he graduated from COB he was recognized for his scholastic aptitude. He returned to his alma mater to deliver the keynote address to the honorees, urging the males among them to be leaders in every facet of society.
"We need more men of excellence now more than ever. We need role models for our sons. Our young Bahamian sons must look up to you for guidance. They must emulate your quest for excellence and model themselves accordingly," he said. "When they are faced with the decision to follow the man who leads the gang on the corner and the student who attends COB, they must come to the realization that to be a man is to know responsibility, to take care of one's self and to take care of one's home. To be a man is to be faithful to one's family, to be a man is to be a leader with a burning desire always to better one's self."
He also challenged the college to be the leading voice in The Bahamas and to help solve the issues this country faces.
"The college and its academics must be the voice of reason in the midst of all the idle talk. When we consider national development plans, issues of taxation, the rights of citizens, issues relating to the environment, these are all issues [in which] the college must have a leading voice. The college must undertake and produce the research which must underpin the public debate," he added.
In all, almost 70 graduating students were honored for their academic excellence and leadership. Among them was Ashley Knowles, who earned an associate of arts degree in music and is a member of The College of The Bahamas Concert Choir. He has travelled the world performing under the leadership of his mentor and choir director Audrey Dean-Wright. Most recently, the college's choir performed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. He enthusiastically expressed his appreciation for her musical guidance.
"I have been prepared so well, it is like you are almost indebted because you cannot repay [Mrs. Dean-Wright], or the music department, or the college for all I have learned in such a short time. When I travel internationally, people are surprised that I am only a second-year student completing an associate degree. They are so pleased to see that this type of training is happening here in The Bahamas," he said.
At the awards ceremony, Dr. Eslyn Jones, vice -president of student affairs, presented a special award to Dean-Wright, an associate professor at the college, for her longstanding commitment to music and education at the institution.
"For over 18 years, this young lady has been training our students and giving us beautiful music at all our ceremonies and services. We thought it fitting to honor her today. This plaque is a small token of our appreciation for the hard work that she has done over the years," she said.
The college's 2014 commencement activities happened under the theme: "A legacy of leadership: Forty years of educating the nation".

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News Article

October 05, 2013
Quality teaching

The names of many of our public schools pay tribute to master teachers whose contributions to national development were extraordinary and critical.
Students should be reminded of those contributions by educators such as Mabel Walker, L.N. Coakley, N.G.M. Major, Naomi Blatch, T.G. Glover, C.V. Bethel, Carlton E. Francis and others.
Today's teachers should draw inspiration from yesterday's masters. Indeed, there remain many fine teachers and administrators in our public schools. We salute them as well as dedicated professionals in the Ministry of Education.
There should be no illusions about the difficulties teachers face in terms of student indiscipline regarding work ethic and poor behavior. Add to this, a lack of parental support for teachers, and one gets a sense of what teachers face on a daily basis.
Within this context, we have high praise for those parents who are committed to improving public education through involvement in school boards, parent-teacher associations and other areas.
Noteworthy are collaborations between teachers and parents. The community outreach program at Sadie Curtis, geared towards boosting parental involvement in that primary school, is exemplary.
There are clear improvements needed in public education. Some of that work will have to be done by students hungry to learn and grow. But, that work also requires greater efforts and collaboration by parents and educators.
The title of headmaster or headmistress was often synonymous with head teacher. And, for good reason.
The idea was that the leader or principal of a school was not singularly a manager or administrator. One of the head's defining roles was to ensure the quality of teaching and instruction.
It is a role which should be stressed with equal measure to that of effective administration of our public schools. This will require that principals have other administrators and support staff assisting them in school administration.
More principals need to spend more time in classrooms rigorously observing teacher performance. The system for mentoring new teachers as well as teachers needing improvement will have to be reviewed and improved in various public schools.
We also renew our call for more effective teacher evaluation. This includes more vigorous assessment measures which truly gauge subject proficiency, teaching methods and student performance relative to the quality of teaching.

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News Article

March 05, 2014
Bahamian chosen in first class of HBCU All-Stars

Bahamian Shantel Braynen has been chosen by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCU) to join its first class of HBCU All-Stars, recognizing 75 undergraduate, graduate and professional students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership and civic engagement.
Currently enrolled at 62 HBCU's, Braynen, a senior at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona, Florida, and the other All-Stars were selected from 445 students who submitted applications that included a transcript, resume, essay and recommendation.
An accounting major, Braynen was shocked when she was contacted by the White House.
"I knew it was a competitive process, but I prayed that I would be chosen. I am grateful to have an opportunity to represent Bethune-Cookman and all HBCU students nationally. And I look forward to serving the community more fully," she said.
Over the course of the next year, the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) All-Stars will serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative by providing outreach and communication to their fellow students about the value of education and the Initiative as a networking resource. Through social media and their relationships with community-based organizations, the All-Stars will share promising and proven practices that support opportunities for all young people to achieve their educational and career potential.
Braynen, 21, who makes up one of the 45 female strong cohort and the 30 males, will participate in regional events and web chats with Ivory Toldson, deputy director of the WHIHBCUs, other initiative staff and professionals from a wide range of disciplines. They will also have opportunities to engage with other scholars to showcase individual and collective talent across the HBCE community.
"It means a lot to me to have been chosen. I give all the glory to God for the opportunity to be chosen," she told The Nassau Guardian. "It means a lot to be chosen as an ambassador of the White House Initiative to promote education, and because I'm from The Bahamas and I'm at a small HBCU it means a lot to represent all those places and also my family."
She was recommended for the initiative by a professor at Texas A&M University who she met when she visited the school two years ago. Her academics, accomplishments and leadership ability got her accepted.
She is the daughter of Stephen and Rochelle Rolle.
Braynen, who lived in Bahama Sound, Exuma, and attended L.N. Coakley School for two years before departing for university, is a perfect 4.00 grade point average student -- an average she hopes will hold true to form through her graduation in May. She has turned in a perfect record since her freshman year.
"I really value education because I believe knowledge is power, so coming into college I had my goal to stay focused and keep the grades up," she said.
Getting to that point was a process for Braynen. She recalls being a C-average student for most of her formative years until she decided to turn things around.
"In primary school I was the student who just barely got by. In high school I was just a so-so student. The turning point for me was when I had two sisters graduate from high school and I saw how well they did -- one was even a valedictorian, so it was then I decided to take my education a little more seriously." Braynen was a 10th grade student at the time. And when she decided to make that switch, she just did it. She applied herself and saw her grade point average rise to 3.5 and above that easily.
Academically, she is a testament to all children who are struggling and who may not be applying themselves that they can struggle, but that they can make the turnaround as well.
She said it helped that when she went through those years when she did not apply herself to learning that she had parents that drilled into her and her siblings that they wanted them to do well, and that they had sacrificed so their children could receive a good education. Braynen said she knew from a child that she would attend college because her parents always pushed for it. She's just glad she made the turnaround when she did.
Braynen is also a believer in that education comes outside of the books as well. "Education is not just about book knowledge -- and this goes right back to this White House initiative -- if I hadn't gone out to Texas and met other people, then I probably wouldn't have been nominated for this Initiative, so education is much more than just studying a book," she said. "We learn from other people and through talking with others."
Her advise to high school students is to put God first in what they do. She said he would direct their path.
"I didn't see myself in primary school being here [college], but it was all in God's plan so I think first of all if they put God first he'll direct their steps in everything. They should also always have a good attitude, and by that I mean don't complain when they get a lot of work in class, but just have a good attitude, and stay focused. If they want to be a chef go out there and be the best chef they can be. If they want to be a doctor, go and be the best doctor they can be, but just stay focused and do well at what they choose to do."
With weeks to her graduation, Braynen says her immediate goals are to find a job for a few years before applying to graduate school. In 10 years she would like to have her own business and she has dream of one day starting her own mentoring initiative.
"With God all things are possible and it doesn't matter where you come from, but it matters where you end up," she says.
Nelson Mandela's quote "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb," is another favorite of hers and one that she says she hopes Bahamian students would live by as well in their approach to their academics.
"When I graduated from high school I was celebrating that I was over this big hill called high school, but I'm climbing this next hill called college and when I'm finished, there's a next hill called real life, so students should ensure that they have determination when they're climbing the hills throughout life and make sure to have God in their life and be focused to get over those hills. But while climbing the hills to also make sure to help other people up which I try to do now in college by being a role model for other students," she said.

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News Article

March 12, 2014
Fueling the minds

Students at Stephen Dillet Primary School certainly have a story of their own to tell when they become parents.
Many of them can speak to the fact that they were read to by the likes of Dame Marguerite Pindling, wife of the country's first prime minister, Sir Lynden Pindling; Jerome Fitzgerald, minister of education, science and technology; Cynthia "Mother" Pratt, the country's first female deputy prime minister and co-chairman of Urban Renewal and Janet Bostwick, the first woman elected to Parliament.
They were just a few of the more than 30 influential and professional Bahamians from all walks of life to participate in a read-a-thon at the school on Friday, March 7. Former senator and politician J. Henry Bostwick; Canon Basil Tynes, rector of St. Barnabas Anglican Church and Tanya McCartney, managing director at RBC FINCO were also among the many people that donated their time to read to the youngsters.
According to Stephen Dillet School principal, Sheila Scavella, the celebrity read-a-thon was initiated in an effort to motivate students to read more and to improve their reading levels. The school celebrated the month under the theme, "Reading Fuels the Mind".
During her reading session to a first grade class, Dame Marguerite also spoke to the students about her experiences growing up in South Andros -- that people did not have to worry about crime and poverty did not prevent her generation from having manners.
She told them, "Life is like a grindstone, it can polish you up or grind you to dust."
Janet Bostwick shared with students that she is a product of the very same school they attend, and about her growing up on Hogg Island before it was known as Paradise Island.
The book she read to the students was a story about "B Booki and B Rabbi" and a Junkanoo parade at Stephen Dillet Primary School.
Pratt described it as a pleasure to read to the students, particularly since the students were able to meet people who also came up from humble beginnings in the Bain and Grants Town Community.
She said it is programs like the Read-a-Thon that had Bahamian celebrities reading to children that are important because many young students including those at the College of The Bahamas, she said do not know the important leaders of The Bahamas.
Pratt said she would return to the school to assist, especially with the boys, to ensure that they stay on the right path. Pratt read the book "Nelson and Allie" that highlighted the friendship between a boy name Nelson who was HIV-positive and his friend Allie, a girl, and of the many people who tried to break-up the friendship because they did not think Allie should be a friend to someone who had the disease.

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News Article

March 21, 2014
GB preschool parents sing praises for national arts festival

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas - As the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival begins its first of two weeks in Grand Bahama, parents of participating preschoolers sang praises for the cultural institution that has been in existence for more than 50 years.
Lisa Turnquest, mother of Sunland Baptist Academy pre-schooler Lia Turnquest, said her daughter worked very hard on her performance and applauded the festival for giving her the opportunity to show what she is capable of doing.
"She has been practicing for a number of weeks and just to see her perform on stage with no nervousness - and so calm and poised - I am so very proud of her," she said. Her husband, Lionel, agreed and said that it was a "bit overwhelming". "Seeing our daughter perform for her very first time on the stage, I feel very proud to see her grow to this stage already at a very early part of her life," Mr. Turnquest said. "There is nothing more I can say about that," he added while looking down lovingly at his smiling daughter.
Lawanda Turner, mother of Sunland Baptist Academy pre-schooler Antwanique Turner, said that her daughter performed her two recitations "very well" and she was proud of the way she spoke so clearly and confidently on stage.
"This is my first time being to the festival," she said. "I have never been to one before. I feel that all the children did well, being that they are youngsters and remembered such a large part like they did."
"It was a good experience," Cordelia Armbrister said about her son and Bahamas Total Education Centre pre-schooler Kayden Ferguson's performance. "I felt proud because it was the first time. I helped him with his practice and he did so well. He enjoyed himself."
Kindercare Learning Centre pre-schooler Madison Davis also had both of her parents watched her recitations. They voiced their pride in her performances on the stage that day. Shanese Davis said Madison has this opportunity and even if she does not win nationally she is so creative and expressive that it is wonderful just to see her.
"We are very excited," her husband, Keno, added. "This is a good way to express themselves and we should never stunt their creativity."
Mrs. Turner commended the festival for having adjudicators like Val Maura judging the participants' performances.
"It's good that they know so much about their work," she said. "It's better that the children learn from someone who has the experience and know how to perform."
Mrs. Turnquest added that she feels "fabulous" about the National Arts Festival making it possible for her daughter the showcase her talent because she remembers being in the festival when she was a girl.
"To see that it is still going on, I am really, really excited," she said. "It is a wonderful thing for the children. It teaches them confidence and poise and, outside of the academics, the arts is a good instrument in the development of children."
"It is actually an exciting event," Mr. Turnquest added. "My nieces have been going for years and they have all been performing and to see my daughter now coming through makes my heart swell. I am glad to see that she has taken interest in it and she has done very well."
"Actually, I was a part of the Festival, too, in the dramatized reading portion when I was at school (C. W. Sawyer Primary)," Mrs. Davis noted. "I am just happy that it is still around. Kids need stuff like this to showcase their creative talents."
Mrs. Turner added a sentiment that was a "given" for most of the parents that day. "I want her to know that I am so proud of her and she will get the treat that I promised her," she said with a smile.

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News Article

April 30, 2014
Challenging period in the school year

The approximate six weeks left on the school calendar usually chalk up to being the most challenging, with a high amount of absenteeism and truancy by students, according to Anzlo Strachan, chief school attendance officer in the Ministry of Education. In an effort to stem the tide, school attendance officers have been visiting various schools on New Providence, encouraging students to remain in school and to persevere through their circumstances.
Through the presentations delivered during junior school assemblies at L.W. Young Junior High School, A.F. Adderley Junior High School, Anatol Rodgers High School and D.W. Davis Junior High School, the officers engaged students through skits and songs in an effort to impart the message in a way that students could relate to.
The situation of absenteeism (missing a day or two here and there, sometimes for illness, or with a good reason) and truancy (there is no real reason, the student simply decides they won't go to school) is one that Strachan said is of concern because of the significant number of children that don't attend school at this time of the year.
"The summer is coming up and students feel that it's almost the end of the year. Maybe they didn't do well all year, so they feel they don't have a chance to do anything in the upcoming exams, so they just don't go to school. The kids start to drop out," said Strachan.
According to him, school attendance is always good in September, October and November but starts to wean in February and March.
He said that an average of 900 to 1,000 students on New Providence have skipped school annually for the past 10 years according to their records over just 18 schools. Today, he said the average of female absenteeism and truancy is split almost 50-50 today with their male counterparts in comparison to yesteryear when he said the norm would have been 300 female students to 600 male students.
"If you really look at it, I'm quite certain that we have over 2,000 students right here in New Providence with frequent absenteeism and truancy. And we tend to group truancy and absenteeism when it comes to numbers almost in the same category sometimes, because the bottom line for us -- whether it's absenteeism or truancy -- is that the students just aren't in school," said the attendance officer.
According to Strachan, there are a number of criteria used when determining absenteeism and truancy, the most obvious being when officers notice a pattern developing when a child misses school once per week over a four-week period. "They think they may be hiding from us by doing that, but we look at the registers very carefully," he said. "Then you have situations where a child is absent three or more days over a two-week period without a note or contact from the parent or guardian, so we start to investigate those cases. Those are the more noticeable criteria and are more easily seen and are red flags. Then you may have a child out for actually two weeks," he said.
The challenge then arises for the attendance office, which only has 14 officers (13 in New Providence and one in Grand Bahama), inclusive of Strachan, to locate the students, who may have changed addresses.
With limited officers, Strachan said the task of policing absenteeism and truancy in schools can be difficult, but he said they have other resources to help them do their jobs, including liaising with guidance council departments in the various schools, the police and social services.
The attendance officers also do street patrols with police officers present. The objective of the street patrol is to observe and record the number of students seen on the street in a specific mapped out area or community. Previously, they concentrated on inner city communities, from which the majority of referrals and public complaints were made, however, as recently as last month, they included subdivisions. During patrols, attendance officers observe and speak to area residents to ascertain whether there are students out of school during school hours. The officers collect information on the students, including age, gender, grade school and the reasons for their absence, as well as the students' parents' names; a case file is then assigned to officers.

Student encounter
During a March patrol of Yellow Elder Gardens and parts of Millenium Gardens, the attendance officers encountered six students out of school: five male and one female ranging in age from nine to 17. The reasons given for their absences included not having shoes to wear, fighting and leaving campus as a result, running away from campus without permission, unpaid school fees and awaiting Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary School Examinations. One student attended a private school. The others attended government schools.
Strachan also said that every attendance case has a social issue attached to it; his officers consult school guidance counselors to find out if students are back in school and talk to them about the issues and assisting with keeping children in school.
"Getting a child back in school is one thing. Keeping them there is the real challenge, so you need to get the students involved in programs," he said. Strachan also said it was imperative that a formerly absent or truant student visit his or her guidance counselor's office at least once every two days, or daily, in some cases.
According to Bahamian law, a child can legally leave school one day before their 17th birthday, said Strachan, and not once they've attained the age of 16, as is the popular belief.
The 25-year veteran of the attendance office believes that the increase in absenteeism and truancy is relative. He said school attendance, with the exception of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, is the longest-running social agency in the country, with 130-plus years of existence. Absenteeism and truancy are not new phenomenons, but, Strachan said, in a 21st century, it is important for Bahamians to have an education.

Education
"If you to intend to be successful in life, you must attend school in order to get somewhere in life. And high school is not the end all. Just about every job is requiring some type of certificate. Eventually, as the competition gets stiffer, you're going to need a certificate to collect garbage," said Strachan.
He admitted that there are some students who are uncontrollable and who aren't wanted in schools because they can disrupt the entire system. He said those children, depending on their circumstances, aren't left to fend for themselves, but are sent programs that cater to their needs.
The chief attendance officer said his unit is in the process of producing infomercials to educate students on why they should not cut school. He said the unit is also developing a website where students will be able to find answers to their questions, if they are thinking about cutting school or dropping out. Strachan said the website is built, and his team is hoping to go live before the start of the next school year.
During their recent junior school tour, Strachan's team encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities in the school system, like the hospitality class at Anatol Rodgers, where he said students don't just learn to cook, but are taught everything they need to know that enables them to leave high school and go directly into the hotel industry. He also highlighted the maritime course, which has proved effective at C.V. Bethel.
He said they have taken their message to junior school students, because they feel that is the age that needs to be addressed to try to change the trend of absenteeism and truancy at the high school level.
"It's during junior school that children usually go through changes -- they're out of primary school with older students and parents tend to treat them differently, so that's the age we need to catch to stay in school and discourage unexplained absenteeism," the chief school attendance officer said.
And while he does not have statistics to prove his theory, Strachan said he believes there is a relationship between students dropping out school or not coming to school and the crime in the country.

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News Article

March 19, 2014
Building teacher confidence and competence

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has taken steps to ensure that the $4.2 million invested in information communication technology (ICT) in public schools throughout the country achieves its objective of equipping students to participate in a globally competitive and technological world. A Tech Round Robin training workshop was held for public and private school teachers recently at the T. G. Glover Primary School on Horseshoe Drive.
Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald told the 120 teachers that it was critical to have qualified teachers in every school who are able to give the ICT tools purpose as there are still some teachers who were hesitant about using technology in their lessons. He said the Tech Round Robin was necessary to provide exposure and understanding of modern and emerging instructional technology tools.
Another objective of the workshop was to build the confidence and competence of educational leaders and teachers through exposure to technology integration.
"I like using the whiteboard because my teacher can download lessons right on the board and we can participate more," said T.G. Glover sixth grade student Malique Smith.
Some of the benefits the ministry hopes students would derive from the effective integration of technology in schools included them taking greater ownership of their learning; improved academic performance and being more engaged, reenergized and more motivated to learn. It is also anticipated that disruptive behavior, absenteeism, and dropout rates would diminish.
Held under the theme "Understanding How ICT is Transforming Education", the two-day forum was organized by the INSPIRE (Investing in Students and Programmes for the Innovative Reform of Education) Unit of the ministry headed by Dr. Karen St. Cyr and Faye Bascom, the ICT coordinator.
Funded by a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, the project is the largest and most successful technology initiative undertaken to date by the government of The Bahamas.
From August 2012 to December 2013, the INSPIRE project has infused significant technology into 76 primary through secondary public schools and upgraded 100 percent of all junior and high school computer labs along with supporting many specialized areas within the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
James Griffin, principal of Lauderdale Lakes Middle School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, told the educators during the forum to "dream the impossible" if they wanted to advance in the technological world. He spoke to them about his experiences with using ICT to transform schools under his leadership from failing schools to schools where students realized significant improvement in their academics and were motivated to learn.
Griffin said that although he has secured hundreds of thousands of technology equipment for his schools, he learnt that if teachers did not embrace his vision, the investment was futile and prohibitive to change.
He said he overcame the problem by networking with another school that had successfully integrated technology into their curriculum. Through virtual teaching sessions with his institution and the other school, he said the result of the networking was his teachers and students developed a greater appreciation for technology.
Griffin told the Bahamian educators that his initial success with networking with a school in his district led him to explore a similar opportunity with a school in the United Kingdom. And that the arrangement allowed the students in his school in Florida to learn the same lessons the same time as a class in Britain. He said such an arrangement could address The Bahamas' shortage of specialized teachers and even the global limitation of specialist teachers.
"Technology will allow the best pre-calculus teacher, or any other teacher, to teach multiple classes in The Bahamas and around the world. There will be no need for a physical teacher with technology at our disposal," said Griffin.
While the education ministry focused on teacher training, Griffin also recommended that training should include students since they are able to grasp technology faster and without the use of a manual.
The Florida-based principal said it was his desire to be the "modern day Martin Luther King Jr." in education in Florida that drove him to lobby for change in his schools. He was the recipient of the Florida Principal of the Year Award.
Representatives from Promethean, manufacturers of active whiteboards, were also at the workshop to demonstrate the latest ICT tools for schools.
Timothy Pinder, a sales and support representative with the Armoury Company, the local distributor of the active whiteboards, showcased a new ICT learning tool, the Active Table, which was a hit with T. G. Glover students.
Pinder noted that a teacher was able to assign six students to work together at a table and later to access their literacy, science and mathematical skills from the feedback the table provided.
Immediately after the tables were programmed, students were excitedly playing educational games, performing tasks and using tablets and cell phones.
Malique said she preferred learning with technology because it is faster and more interesting.
"Technology makes learning fun," said the sixth grade student. It was a sentiment echoed by her peers Kendra Phillipe, Ian Ingraham and Steven Whymns.
Also presenting at the workshop was Roshekia Rolle, a Bahamian who teaches at Lauderdale Lakes Middle School and Allison Papke, a graduate assistant at University of South Florida.

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News Article

May 07, 2014
No plans to table new 20 mil. contract

Despite pledging to table the contracts awarded to MalJack Construction under the previous administration, Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson indicated yesterday he would not table the $20 million contract awarded to Holiday Industrial Builders.
"If you remember there is a company called MalJack Construction that did a lot of...work at Garvin Tynes Primary School," said Gibson at a press conference at the Cabinet Office.
"They also did...work in Andros and they promised they would never work again.
"They were actually terminated for cause.
"In [the case of] Holiday, they said they (the Ingraham administration) terminated them without cause. In this case, they terminated him (MalJack's principal) for cause.
"I'm going to be tabling in Parliament tomorrow the contracts that he got since he was terminated for cause by the same administration."
But when asked if he would table the $20 million contract awarded to Holiday Industrial Builders, Gibson said, "I can go through all of the NIB contracts and the only time those contract issues are raised is if somebody raised the issue about the contract.
"But you don't table National Insurance contracts in Parliament. When did that happen last?"
Gibson previously said that Holiday Industrial Builders was awarded a $20 million contract to construct a building on John F. Kennedy Drive to house the Ministry of National Security.
He said the bidding was done through a selective tendering process.
In 2004, Holiday Industrial Builders was awarded a $5.8 million contract to build what is now the Office of the Attorney General on John F. Kennedy Drive.
In 2008, the Ingraham administration terminated the contract.
The new building to house the Ministry of National Security, which will be a replica of the Office of the Attorney General building, is being constructed with National Insurance money.
Gibson said Holiday's contract was terminated without cause and the Ingraham administration awarded a new contract to Jones Construction Company, without going to tender.
Prime Minister Perry Christie said he referred the matter of the new Holiday contract to Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis for an investigation into the "accuracy and reasonableness of the price".
"I want to put this to a point because it is amazing that people could take an issue and magnify it when you know it was given to somebody without going to tender," he said.
"I have to presume you know and I presume you don't care.
"You only care when it is awarded by the PLP."
Davis accused the media of fanning public discontent on the issue.
"We looked at the numbers," he said. "We revised all the numbers and we then said this price, the value for what is going to be built, is reasonable and meets the appropriate accepted standard."
At a rally last night, Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis charged that the $20 million contract should not have exceeded $15 million.

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News Article

May 05, 2014
Dr. Winston Campbell makes history

Dr. Winston Campbell, has become the University of the West Indies' (UWI) first board-certified specialist in the field of sleep medicine, not only in The Bahamas, but in the Caribbean.
Sleep disorders are known to comprise the hub of high-risk factors in The Bahamas, particularly as it involves the prevailing epidemic of chronic non-communicable disorders such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus type II, obesity, and cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and neuropsychiatric disorders.
According to Dr. Robin Roberts, director of UWI's School of Clinical Medicine, this vast net of risk factors extends to embrace breast cancer and enhances the frequency of life-threatening road traffic accidents.
"Sleep disorders are implicated in spawning and worsening the effects of many medical conditions, namely refractory hypertension, congestive heart failure, strokes, heart attacks, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, chronic renal failure, as well as mental depression and various fractured, societal relationships," he said.
"This amalgam of maladies poses a high, hidden economic burden and with significant numbers of persons yet unrecognized and undiagnosed -- estimated at more than 80 percent in our community -- the impact of the overall blend of the public health and economic burden is indeed staggering. There is a great need for this relatively new dimension of medicine to be incorporated in all aspects of the delivery of care in our primary, secondary and tertiary health services."
Dr. Campbell is also the first board-certified ear, nose and throat/head and neck surgeon in The Bahamas. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He currently practices out of St. Luke's Medical Centre, Collins Avenue.

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News Article

March 23, 2014
Discussion is held over national parks for East End

LAKESHIA Anderson, Grand Bahama Parks Manager for the Bahama National Trust, met last week with residents of McLean's Town at a public meeting, held at McLean's Town Primary School in Grand Bahama.

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News Article

August 31, 2013
Sir Lynden Pindling Room honors legacy of the 'Father of the Nation'

The Sir Lynden Pindling Room, a special exhibition space to honor the legacy and life of the former prime minister was officially opened this week.
The room is located in the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Centre at The College of The Bahamas. It will showcase personal effects, family and political photographs, as well as gifts received from world leaders during the Pindling era.
Widely credited as the "Father of the Nation" and visionary architect of the modern Bahamas, Sir Lynden's vision has impacted nearly every facet of nationhood in The Bahamas.
Sir Lynden's daughter, Monique Pindling-Johnson, said her father strongly believed that education "liberates people".
In the months leading up to independence, when teaching Bahamians about why he thought such a move would be good for The Bahamas, Sir Lynden's basic tenet was, "in order for a people to understand where they are headed, it is important for them to understand from whence they came", Pindling-Johnson noted.
"Ours is a rich history that should be preserved and information about [it] should be easily accessible, so that all Bahamians, particularly school children, can learn more about the history of The Bahamas and about themselves, first hand," she said.
College Librarian Dr. Berthamae Walker hopes the college will see a lot of research coming out of the Sir Lynden Pindling collection.
"We invite the public in to learn about The Bahamas, learn about Bahamian authors and to do more research," she said.
The Sir Lynden Pindling Foundation has given $300,000 towards the establishment of a permanent exhibition in honor of Sir Lynden's life.
Under Sir Lynden's leadership, The Bahamas achieved its independence from Great Britain and was steered through a marked period of growth and development.
Born on March 22, 1930, Sir Lynden served as The Bahamas' first black premier from 1967 to 1969. His term as prime minister of The Bahamas lasted from 1969 to 1992 and his leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party came to an end in 1997, when he resigned from public life. Sir Lynden passed away in August 2000 at the age of 70.
The Sir Lynden O. Pindling Foundation was established in 2001 as a nonprofit, non-partisan charitable company. Its primary purpose is to promote Sir Lynden's legacy "by developing programs and projects for the benefit of the people of The Bahamas, which are geared to enhance national pride, social responsibility, historical and environmental awareness".

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March 24, 2014
Queen's College student wins National Spelling Bee

The 17th Annual Bahamas National Spelling Bee produced fierce competition among the 20 participants, but it was Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools student Prachi Kondapuram who took first place.
The event was held at the Crown Ballroom in Atlantis yesterday.
Prachi, 11, of Queen's College, said she did her best to remain calm and focused, chalking up her victory to fastidious preparation.
Prachi, who was still processing her win last night, said, "I can't feel anything right now".
"I am very excited to be going to Washington. I hope I get at least past the written rounds and go into the speaking rounds that will be televised. The Bahamas will place this year."
Asked about her work ethic up to last night, Prachi said, "It has been tons of work, especially for Ms. [Joyelle] McIntosh (coach) who had to tackle tutoring and made us stay two hours every day after school."
Prachi went 23 rounds, winning with the word 'photographer'.
She went one round with sixth grade student Donovan Butler, 11, of Xavier's Lower School, but in the end it was the word 'impertinent' that defeated him.
Prachi will represent The Bahamas at the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in Washington, D.C.
She will be accompanied by second place contestant, Donovan, and third place contestant Franqel Hagan, 10, of Hugh Campbell Primary School in Grand Bahama.
Prachi was showered with prizes, including a laptop computer, and a $750 cash prize, among many other gifts.
Donovan, who placed second in the previous 16th Annual Bahamas National Spelling Bee, said he was disappointed to be a runner up two years in a row, but he is already focusing on next year's competition.
"I still have next year and hopefully I will do better," he said.
"I have been studying long hours and I have put in a lot of work, and I will continue that."
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald wished the winner and participants great success.
"To the winner, our high praise and immeasurable support as you become a spelling ambassador for our country," he said in his message.
Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes and Prime Minister Perry Christie shared similar sentiments in their messages.
The Bahamas National Spelling Bee held an additional three rounds as part of the preliminary competition on Friday, in which Donovan placed first; Adon Beckford, 11, of St. John's College placed second and Prachi placed third.

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News Article

September 21, 2013
School AC 'sabotaged'

The air conditioning unit at Uriah McPhee Primary School was "sabotaged" multiple times, forcing education officials to spend thousands of dollars on repairs, Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald said yesterday.
The sabotage also forced officials to close the school for yet another day, Fitzgerald said.
"We reported the matter to the police today (Friday) and it appears that every day this week, we have had an experience of damage to our units, which has caused us now to put the units at both schools under 24-hour security watch," said Fitzgerald at a press conference at the Ministry of Education.
"It's unfortunate that it has come to this, but this appears the sort of action that we have to take with what is going on."
Fitzgerald said the AC unit will be repaired over the weekend and school will resume on Monday.
He said the act of sabotage is of "extreme concern" to him.
Over the past few days, officials found puncture holes and other damage to the air conditioning ducts, which have resulted in problems with the ventilation system, Fitzgerald said.
"We obviously have to now spend scarce resources protecting our units," he said.
The Ministry of Education closed Uriah McPhee and Stephen Dillet schools last Friday because of several health issues and malfunctioning air conditioning units.
Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson claimed the schools also have mold, rodent and termite infestation.
The schools opened earlier this week after Fitzgerald said the Ministry of Environment gave the all-clear.
However, the union continued to express concerns about conditions at both schools.
The union had its own assessment conducted by Enviro-Clean Company on September 14.
In its report, the company said the air conditioning units and vents on each floor of Stephen Dillet are "extremely dirty, pushing out dust and contaminated".
The company noted that in an opening connecting the second and third floors, exposed fiberglass has been used to fix the ceiling.
"Overall Stephen Dillet Primary School is not fit or worthy to open for public use," the report said.
However, Fitzgerald dismissed that report yesterday.
He said he was informed that the report was prepared by a teacher who is presently facing disciplinary action for an exorbitant number of absent days.
"I believe that my ministry has engaged some of the most intelligent teachers anywhere in the world and they are capable of reading between the lines," he said.
Fitzgerald said he is satisfied that all of the issues that could potentially pose a health risk have been addressed.
He said officials from the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) also drew the same conclusion.
However, he added that the DEHS advised the ministry to carry out the remainder of work over the next 10 days, including fogging inside the building and cleaning the AC ducts.
"This is a procedure that is carried out routinely in houses, business, hospitals and schools in this country and around the world every day," Fitzgerald said.
"It does not require one to move out of their home, close their business or shut down a hospital to clean ducts and vents."
Fitzgerald invited parents to tour the affected schools on Monday so that they can see for themselves that the issues have been rectified.

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News Article

November 18, 2013
Port expects to charge VAT on shipping-related services

Confirming that the $83 million Nassau Container Port (NCP) expects to add 15 percent to all shipping-related services it provides once value-added tax (VAT) is implemented, the port's CEO said the facility could also see a spike in expenses if the proposed new tax regime comes into effect.
While he has no issues with the government's plans to reform the country's taxation system, Arawak Port Development (APD) Limited's CEO Michael Maura Jr. said he is concerned that the government must take steps to be as efficient as possible in its operations, as well as about exactly how the tax will impact his bottom line, given the lack of confirmed details released to date.
"The government needs to be looking within and making sure that it's right-sized against where we are. And that you when you take a downturn, you've got to right-size and when you take an upturn, you have to right-size," he told Guardian Business.
"But we all have to become as efficient as possible and that includes government. My concern is efficiency. It's one thing to come up with a tax, and again I appreciate the fact that we need to get more money out of the economy to pay our bills, and I support that, but we have a huge issue with our debt. We need to pay our bills.
"We have services that we expect to have the government provide everyday. I expect to pay more as an individual. I just want to make sure that I understand how it's all going to work so that I can add it all together."
While it's no secret that every sector in society will be impacted by VAT, Maura explained the impact he expects VAT to have on operations at the Nassau Container Port (NCP) based on what he knows.
"We are a service provider so wherever we have a charge, we would be expected to assess that VAT percentage. At the moment, it's being explained as 15 percent. So for example, we charge $40 to take a 20-foot container off the ship, so we would have to apply 15 percent to that $40. So that's how we pass it on," he said.
"Now from a payment perspective, we also consume a lot of services. So we are going to be incurring 15 percent on those services that we incur.
"So what we will then do is look for a credit on our payments against the outgoing monies to government, but we will be impacted like any business. The shipping companies will be impacted. Basically everyone in the process will be impacted."
As the debate intensifies on the subject, some have questioned the Family Islands' preparedness in time for the proposed July 1, 2014 implementation date.
Bahamas Hotel Tourism Association President Stuart Bowe said the organization is particularly concerned with the readiness of the Family Islands and small business, which are above the anticipated $100,000 per annum sales threshold, due to limited resources and access to affordable expertise. And Co-Chair of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) Coalition for Responsible Taxation Robert Myers believes inflation could reach "unbearable" levels in the Family Islands under VAT.
Doing its part to foster Family Island development, the NCP announced its Family Island Development Initiative last week, which is filled with incentives that seek to foster sustainability of small Bahamian shipping companies.
These incentives include a 50 percent discount on landing fees on domestic cargo landed at NCP, a 50 percent discount off landing fees on "duty not paid" cargo landed at NCP when a Family Island is to be the final destination, 25 percent off landing fees for "duty not paid" cargo earmarked for New Providence and shipped by 100 percent Bahamian-owned and operated vessels only, and 14 days of free storage on "duty not paid" cargo headed to the Family Islands.
Maura called these "monetary motivations" an integral component of NCP's initiatives that should not only strengthen 100 percent Bahamian-owned enterprises, but contribute too to a growth in Family Island commerce.

Upcoming VAT informational events

The Value-Added Tax (VAT) Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Finance has announced upcoming informational sessions, speeches, presentations and appearances on the VAT's Implementation and VAT "business readiness" as a part of the public education exercises during the week of November 18-23, 2013.
On Monday, November 18, 2013, members of the VAT Implementation Unit will deliver a presentation to the Yamacraw Constituency Association at its monthly constituency meeting at the Thelma Gibson Primary School, starting at 7:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. All interested persons in the Yamacraw constituency are urged by the ministry to attend.
On Tuesday, November 19, 2013, members of the Ministry of Finance along with officials from the VAT Implementation Unit will give speeches and brief presentations on the state of the economy and the urgent need for tax reform at the Bahamas Financial Services Board's Speech Competition Finals being held at Sheraton Nassau Beach Hotel, starting at 10 a.m.
On November 19, 2013, Ministry of Finance officials along with officials from the VAT Implementation Unit will be giving a presentation at the Oakes Field Primary School Parents/Teachers Association, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
On November 21, 2013 members from the VAT Implementation Unit will be delivering a presentation to the Seabreeze Constituency Association at the Sadie Curtis Primary School from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. All interested persons in the Seabreeze constituency are urged to attend.

oFor more information, you can contact the VAT Implementation Unit: vat@bahamas.gov.bs, (242) 327-1530 (Ministry of Finance) or (242) 225-7280 (VAT Hotline).

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News Article

December 05, 2013
The birth of Christ celebrated during annual Festival of Carols

NASSAU, The Bahamas - Public and private school students throughout New Providence ushered in the Christmas season Wednesday, December 4 during the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology's annual Festival of Carols at Golden Gates World Outreach Ministries.
Representing primary, junior high and senior schools, the students demonstrated what Christmas means to them in song, dance, dramatisation, speech and music. The theme for the event was "Jesus: Marvellous and Wonderful".
Attending the event was Director of Education, Lionel Sands, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Antoinette Thompson and Deputy Director, Ross Smith and other senior government officials. Parents, teachers and well-wishers including Dame Marguerite Pindling were also among the audience.
Speaking on behalf of Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald, Mr. Sands said the Festival is a time to reflect on the birth of Christ through the talents of the students and to be grateful regardless of what has occurred in the past and the uncertainties of the future.
He said the passionate performances and talents of the children encourage him to do all possible to ensure that they continue to have access to quality education and eventually contribute to fulfil their purpose and be productive, law abiding citizens.

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