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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
Poster competition to 'Save the Wetlands'

The Sandals Foundation yesterday held a poster competition for primary school students who participated in Experiential Education's 'Ride to Save the Wetlands'.

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News Article
Living each day as it comes

Most people dream of retirement...leisurely days, traveling at will and the idea of doing what they want to do, when they want to do it. By age 40, after working for a number of years, those dreams start to turn to something they are eagerly looking forward to, and they start making plans accordingly. But for Nneska Williams, that is still too many years to think about. She just takes it one day at a time.
Williams, 40, does not think of the future. The lupus fighter lives each day as it comes, because she never knows what each day will hold.
"I can only live one day at a time. I cannot plan ahead, because I really don't know what the future holds for me. Once I wake up each morning and I'm fine, I thank God I've made it through to see another day," said the mother of three who was diagnosed with the disease on January 6, 1992.
Williams has been waging a 23-year battle with lupus that flared up when she was 17. The chronic inflammatory disease was triggered after Williams had her first baby. When her baby was eight months old, Williams' mom, Sarahlee Williams found her daughter unconscious on the floor. She went through a battery of tests and was misdiagnosed before she received a lupus diagnosis.
With lupus the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. It can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments, but the most distinctive sign of lupus is the facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which could be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there's no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms. With the highly individualized disease, no two cases are exactly alike.
In the two-plus decades that she has been battling lupus, Williams has had five strokes -- the worst in 2000 that left her bedridden for two years and totally dependent. She wasn't able to feed herself, comb her hair or take a bath.
"I could not do anything," she recalled.
Another stroke that affected just her face left her having to wear an eyepatch as she was unable to close her eye.
Her last stroke six months ago left her right leg and hand paralyzed. She has resumed function and mobility in the hand, but today is still unable to feel any sensation in it.
"I can use it to write and hold things, but if I need to feel hot water, I have to use my left hand to do that because the right hand still does not have that feeling in it," she says.
Of the five strokes she has suffered, she said the first and last were almost identical, with her not being able to move. According to her, the first time she was wheelchair-bound. This last time around, in November 2013, after an initial stint in a wheelchair, her independent nature (which she's proud of) reared its head, she chucked the wheelchair and used a cane for mobility. She also wore a brace on her right leg to assist her with walking.

Independent nature
"I'm very determined and have always been independent. I persevere," she said of herself.
Recalling a story that she said speaks to her independent nature, she spoke about stealing her mother's car after her first stroke.
"They told me I may never drive again. I told them that I wasn't going to sit down and wait for someone to take me where I had to go and that I was going to drive myself. No one thought I would be able to do it, but I'm very determined."
Looking back, she said during the early years after her diagnosis she did not let it get in her way.
"I partied. I lived my life and I enjoyed the life that I lived. I didn't think about it. I really, really didn't think about it," she said, even though she said her mother, a nurse, would always warn her about being careful and the serious nature of the disease which sends sufferers through crises. Williams said she just laughed it off.
Even as she spoke with The Nassau Guardian she was suffering through a flare-up, which presented itself on Saturday in the form of a painful rash across her chest, the result of exposure to sunlight. But she was at her job that Monday, as an office manager with a company she's worked for since 1989.
In November she was diagnosed with APS (Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome) that causes blood clots in her brain and affects the right side of her body. As a result she's on constant blood thinners and has to have weekly blood tests to ensure that her blood remains thin. She's also developed diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. She says she knows no one else with lupus with APS. Lupus is a highly individualized disease. No two cases are exactly alike, which means treatments also vary depending on the symptoms and needs of the patient.
"Someone else may be going through chemotherapy, someone else may be going through dialysis because they lost their kidneys, I thank God everyday I don't have to go through that," she said. "I just have my pain, my swelling, my migraine headaches and now I have to be very careful because of the thinning of the blood, and careful because if I fall down and scratch my knee I can actually bleed out. But I smile through it all because I may be going through something, but there's somebody out there going through something that's worse than me, so with that thought I go on."
Williams, an only child, says she thanks God that none of her three children (the eldest is 23, the youngest 16) have presented any lupus symptoms to date, and that they never develop the disease. But she says her children's lives have been affected by lupus.
"From very early on in life they knew exactly what it [lupus] was and how it affected me. A lot of people don't understand what lupus is, but [my children] do and they know how to deal with it."
May is recognized around the world as Lupus Awareness Month, and Nassau-based support group Lupus 242 is leading the way in the education about the debilitating disease that affects an estimated 5.5 million people globally. There are no real statistics on the number of people in The Bahamas with lupus. Lupus 242 to date has 50 active members.
During the month of awareness, Williams' one wish is that people would educate themselves about the disease, because she does not want anyone to pity her, but to simply understand what she and fellow lupus sufferers are going through.
"I am normal," she said. "I just take a longer time to do things, so you just have to accept me for who I am. If I take 10 minutes to walk from my house to the car and it only takes you two minutes, all you have to do is be patient and wait."

Do not stare
While she admits that she walks funny, she says she hates when people stare at her. And the one thing that hurt her the most, she said, was when her youngest son's schoolmates treated him like he had the plague.
"They really didn't understand what I had. I had to go in and speak with them, and everyone was understanding and kind of apologized," she said of the primary school-aged children. "As a parent I can't hold that against them because a child really does not know." But the mother said she felt for her child.
"I don't like the stares, and people do stare if they see me walking, or they'll come up to me and ask if I had a car accident, and I think that's so rude. If you come in a funny way I get offended."
Williams recently gave a lupus band to a new co-worker who wore it for the entire day, then said he really knew nothing about lupus. She gave him a pamphlet and encouraged him to educate himself.
"I do not like people to pity me. Just accept me for who I am," she said.
Lupus is a disease that is expensive to manage. When Williams was initially diagnosed, she had no insurance. After a three-year remission, she was able to enroll in a group coverage plan. As a result she pays approximately $400 per month out of pocket for medication, almost half of what she would have had to pay without insurance.
Williams is an active member of Lupus 242, a non-profit group that provides support and information for people living with lupus in The Bahamas, and whose goal is to increase awareness. The mission is to reveal the secrets of the chronic disease by finding and sharing information and providing support to people living with lupus, their families and their friends.
"Lupus 242 is not only a group, it's like a family. We go in, we share, we laugh, we gets our minds off of the pain or what we're dealing with. When we go there, we lay back, we relax, we have a good time. I can pick up the phone and call someone and say I'm going through this, have you ever experienced this, and they'll be like, 'no, but let me call somebody else and ask them'. The group is very close," said Williams.
While Williams has made no plans for next year, the next five years, or even for life after the retirement age, she said as long as she has life she wants people to accept her for who she is and to give her a chance.

May 18 --Purple Hat Tea Party at St. Matthew's Anglican Parish Hall. Tickets are $25 adults and $15 kids. Telephone 525-9967 for more information.

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News Article
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
A fresh look for Holmes Rock

REPAIRS and improvements were made to the Holmes Rock Primary school in Grand Bahama by the Grand Bahama Shipyard (GBS) and other sponsors.

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News Article
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
FNM MPs: New Providence is filthy

Several Free National Movement (FNM) MPs have hit out at the government over the deteriorating state of New Providence, with one member calling it an "embarrassment" and another describing it as "filthy".
Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn lamented the unkempt sidewalks and verges around the island but particularly in his constituency, which he claims has been largely neglected for months.
"We have to get our priorities right," he said in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
"We need a change in attitude because when you leave the island in the condition that it's in at this moment, it is a disgrace and it is an embarrassment. It's certainly an embarrassment to me, and it should be to this government."
Lightbourn said he is extremely disappointed about the condition of his constituency.
Pointing especially to the park near Uriah McPhee Primary School, Lightbourn said the state of the park poses a danger to the children who use it.
"If you go to Uriah McPhee park, which is right next to the school, you can literally lose the children in the grass. The grass is this high," he said, pointing to his waist.
"This is a school that has young children in it. It's hard to conceive. I've made numerous complaints to the ministry about the condition."
The Nassau Guardian visited the park yesterday and noticed that it has now been cleaned up.
Lightbourn said he did see some work being done on some of the verges in his constituency on Sunday. But he said the efforts need to be increased.
"Probably the whole of this island is an absolute disgrace," he said. "I don't know whether the ministry has given any contracts, but certainly if they have, they (the companies contracted) are not performing their duty."
He also spoke about the slow place of garbage collection. He noted that garbage sometimes goes uncollected for weeks.
Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis also complained about the state of his Killarney constituency.
He said the state of the Tropical Gardens park is deteriorating, adding that residents can no longer use the park as the grass is overgrown and garbage has accumulated.
He said garbage has also accumulated on the beach west of Saunders Beach, which is a popular spot for beach-goers.
Minnis said the Gambier community is also facing serious issues.
He said the roads have fallen into a state of disrepair and the verges are unkempt.
"What exactly is going on?" he asked. "We are all aware of the song 'Funky Nassau'. They did not mean it literally, but we are all exposed to funky Nassau. It's now a funky Nassau."
St. Anne's MP Hubert Chipman offered similar criticism.
"The country is filthy," he said.
Chipman said he has written to several officials in the Ministry of Works on the issue.
He said the minister of works needs to address the problem immediately.

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News Article
C-Force to perform in Freeport for the GB Performing Arts Society

Two concert-workshops provided to students in Grand Bahama
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- The Grand Bahama Performing Arts Society (GBPAS) is delighted to present C-Force, a chamber ensemble that offers a unique and intriguing approach to the traditional concept of chamber music. The group is made up of Christy Lee - pianist, Christine Gangelhoff - flute and Christian Justilien - euphonium, all of whom are faculty members at The College of the Bahamas, Nassau and will appear at Freeport's Regency Theatre on Saturday, March 15th at 7:30pm.
The evening, C-Force, An Evening of Musical Fusion will include beloved Bahamian writer, poet and filmmaker, Marion Bethel, who will be reading some of her poetry and will also incorporate GBPAS scholarship recipient, Chavez Parker, on percussion.
C-Force's unusual instrumentation (flute, euphonium and piano) allows for many types of classical music interpretations and their diverse backgrounds contribute to the exploration of all types of non-traditional musical forms. Since its formation in 2008, C-Force has been featured in concert throughout the islands of The Bahamas. Most recently the group has been promoting the art music of the Caribbean with their performances in Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the US Virgin Islands and the United States.
The members of C-Force are unified in their desire to encourage music education in The Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean region. To this end they will be performing two (2) concerts for students on Grand Bahama Island. These concerts /workshops will take place at Bishop Michael Eldon Auditorium on Friday, March 14, 2014 with primary school aged children at 10am and concert for middle/high school aged children at 1pm. These sessions will last about 1 hour which will include concert pieces, demonstration of the euphonium and a Q & A period. There will be a minimal charge of $2.00 per student.

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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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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.

"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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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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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 at Garvin Tynes Primary School," said Gibson at a press conference at the Cabinet Office.
"They also 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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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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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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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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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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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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Govt places focus on special needs education

The government is auditing the country's educational system to determine how many students have learning disorders and special needs, but Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald estimated that 25 percent of them are in this category.
The audit will also determine how many teachers are equipped to instruct students with special needs.
Fitzgerald held a press conference at the Ministry of Education yesterday to release a manual called the National Standards for Inclusive Education.
The document is meant to be a resource for teachers and relevant agencies to help them ensure that special needs students have their needs met in the educational system.
"We do not see this document as a panacea to address years of deficiencies in the area of special education; however, we do see it as a part of a multifaceted approach to make a difference in the lives of thousands of students denied their right to a quality education in this country," Fitzgerald said.
Starting early next year, teachers will take part in professional workshops conducted at Our Lady's Diagnostic Centre by the ministry's special services and education units.
"The Professional Development Institute at the Mabel Walker Primary School will also play an integral role in the ongoing training of public and private school teachers in inclusive education," Fitzgerald said.
In September, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government is confronted with the problem of how to design public policies to benefit people with special needs and learning disabilities that can be implemented across the country.
At the time, he urged researchers at The College of The Bahamas to use its resources to get data on the number of residents with disabilities so it can be used to influence public policy.
"Every child in this country must be [afforded] the right to participate in the equity or the resources of the country," Christie said.
"When you share out the resources in education, there must be facilities for that child and those facilities must be adapted to ensure that the child is able to have the opportunity similar to the other children."
Christie also said the government has identified an area on Gladstone Road for the construction of a facility for adults with disabilities.
"[It will be] a facility where special kids who have grown up will be able to go, will be kept while their parents and caretakers go to work, will even be able to spend a night if they have to," he said in September.

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BTC iVolunteers help out at Governor's Harbour Primary

THE students and faculty of the Governor's Harbour Primary School recently hosted a special assembly to thank BTC and their iVolunteer team for repairs made to two of the school's restrooms and one of the classrooms, and restoration of playground equipment and purchase and installation of new pieces.

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