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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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Attorney Geoffrey Farquharson has been fined $2,000 for contemptuous remarks he made during the course of the Kofhe Goodman murder trial. He will serve 14 days in prison if the fine is not paid in 21 days.
Farquharson was found guilty of contempt of court on May 22 for his conduct during the trial, which ended on October 29, 2013, when Goodman was sentenced to death for the September 2011 murder of primary school student Marco Archer.
Justice Bernard Turner cited Farquharson for contempt in relation to remarks that he made on May 15, 2013 and July 18, 2013 that impugned the integrity of the court.
In sentencing yesterday, Turner said that he was compelled to punish Farquharson to spare another judge from the same behavior. He said that Farquharson was unrepentant in his behavior by maintaining that he acted properly.
On May 15, Farquharson said, "We are concerned that the apparent bias of the court may be tantamount to participation of the court wittingly or unwittingly to this perversion of justice. We say that what the prosecution has done is to fix this man up with a case, and that the court, by its actions, may well be viewed by a disinterested observer to be enabling that effort by the prosecution. If that is the case, my Lord, that would mean that there was a suggestion that the court itself may be guilty of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice."
In July, Farquharson accused the "court of blatantly and flagrantly disregarding the law and making up the law on which it purports to act". He added, "My Lord, I want the Bahamian people to know what is on going in their court, because I want them to know that the Judge is ignoring the legislation. I want the jury and the country to understand what is going in the Supreme Court, my Lord, and you are trying to hide it from the jury, and you are trying to hide it from the public. And the prosecution is trying to hide it from the jury and the public, what they are doing in here. And what they are doing in here is grossly unfair and unlawful and you, My Lord, is enabling them."
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.
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.
The Eleuthera Softball Association (ESA) held a general meeting this past Thursday at Andy Deal's Pavilion in Palmetto Point, Eleuthera, and it appears that the popular sport is finally making a return to what is regarded as 'The Softball Capital of The Bahamas'.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to elect an executive team to run the association for 2014 and 2015. Former softball player and current Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) executive member Romell 'Fish' Knowles was elected for a third non-consecutive term to lead the once prestigious softball association.
Other executives elected are vice presidents Joe Sands, Sammy Sands and Tony Crean, who is responsible for primary, middle and senior school play, secretary general and veteran administrator Paula Johnson, assistant secretary general Noel Small, treasurer Andre Gardiner, and assistant treasurer Andre Butler. The technical officials are commissioner Johnny 'Versatile' Butler and umpire-in-chief Gerard Coakley.
The directors for the league are Andy Deal, Clifford Sands, Angelo Bethel, Ken Mackey, Addison Cooper, Sherwin Major and Steve Maynard. The honorary members are International Softball Federation (ISF) Hall of Famers Austin 'King Snake' Knowles Sr., Richard 'The Lion Heart' Johnson and Douglas 'Dougie' Smith.
New president Knowles said he expects the league to start with about six men teams, and a strong possibility of adding four ladies teams. He stated that a lot of the younger softball players who now play slow pitch softball are enthusiastic about competing in the fast pitch league.
"Unlike past years, the hallmark of our association will be the introduction of a primary school division that will compliment the middle school and high school divisions," said Knowles. "I'm grateful already to Senator Greg Burrows who traveled to Eleuthera to inspect the playing facilities with a view of enhancing and improving the facilities to world-class certified levels."
Knowles indicated that the area member of parliament (MP), Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs Damien Gomez, donated funds to the Eleuthera Softball Association and promised a second set of funding to ensure the league is sustained financially. President Knowles said that he is grateful for the support and enthusiasm expressed by the government through Senator Burrows and Minister Gomez.
Also, to be fair, Knowles said that he has not asked the other member of parliament for Eleuthera to assist with funding, but feels fairly comfortable that MP Theo Neilly will step up to the plate, as he too is anxious to see the return of softball on the island of Eleuthera. Additionally, Knowles said that he's sure that there are a good number of Eleutherans who will give gladly to assist with sustaining the league financially.
Knowles is already at work with plans to hold coaches, umpires and administrative development courses within the next few weeks.
In addition, league play will be scored electronically, and recruitment and training exercises will be done by Stephen 'Bishop' Beneby and Sherry Beneby.
The league will open with a jamboree with teams being invited from around the country. "We will showcase our school division along with senior play," said Knowles.
Knowles said he was reliably informed that the Bahamas Softball Federation (BSF) intends to honor Billy Micklewhyte at its round-robin tournament that has been promised to the island of Eleuthera. He said that he looks forward to a very busy, but productive, year for the sport of softball, especially on Eleuthera.
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.
Passion, persistence, perspiration and patience in pursuit of excellence propelled Bahamas Star Gymnastics' (BSG) competitive squad to the top of the medal podium in a recent competition.
In their second appearance at the Tim Rand American Twisters Gymnastics Invitational, hosted in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, these "starlets" nailed a first place in the team division for Level 2, a fourth place in the Level 3 team division, and churned out brilliant individual results including several first place finishes among 12-13 other age division competitors, and inked personal best and season best results in the scorebooks for their club and country. All of the gymnasts scored above a 36 (of 40) which is unprecedented in the country's history of the sport in a single meet.
The "crowning" moment came when BSG's Level 2 team was announced as Team Division winners in the All-Around category. The supporting cast of Bahamians had already peaked emotionally when Soraya Halkitis, Kym-Benay Greene and Lauryn Stubbs swept the top three positions in the Uneven Bars segment.
"Of all of the events, Uneven Bars challenged our team most throughout this season and we basked in the moment of the three straight victories as affirmation of the hard work hammered out in the gym," beamed coach and co-chaperone Tenille Thompson. At the Magical Classic, BSG's Uneven Bars scores were uncharacteristically lower than expected (low 8.0 out of 10) and the coaches headed back to the drawing board with the 'Code of Points', dissected the routines and made adjustments. It just so happened that the same Uneven Bars judge at the Magical Classic also judged the gymnasts at Tim Rand, and the results, all 9.0 or higher, brought relief and celebration to the coaches and gymnasts.
Lauryn Stubbs has been dubbed "the comeback kid" of the season. She had taken a four-year absence from the sport and returned last summer as a new enrollee of BSG. Her journey faced some setbacks when she did not win a medal at the Atlantis Crown Gymnastics Invitational in December, her first competitive meet of the season. At her second meet, Tim Rand, Stubbs dug deep and finished second in All-Around (36.875 of 40). She was also second on Vault and third on Uneven Bars, Balance Beam and Floor Exercise.
Soraya Halkitis and Kym-Benay Greene, who had both earned second place All-Around titles at the Magical Classic in Orlando last month, rounded out the awards with a fourth and fifth place respectively. Stubbs' appearance at this meet allowed the gymnasts to qualify for the team division in which the top three scores counted. Together, their first place team award ignited the cheering squad with chants of "242" and "we are proud of you". Halkitis snagged a second place finish on Floor Exercise (9.3 of 10) and Balance Beam (9.375 of 10) to contribute an All-Around score of 36.675 to the winning team score. Greene dismounted the Uneven Bars to conclude a first place routine with a season and personal best of 9.40, and followed that with a third place finish on Floor Exercise (9.225 of 10). Graceful Greene's 36.40 (out of 40) All-Around score was the deal closer to claim the first place Team All-Around title. The Level 2 team also swept first place in the All-Around Team division on Uneven Bars, Balance Beam and Floor Exercise.
The Level 3 teammates of Aniyah Pratt and Summer Sturrup captured first place in their respective age divisions. Pratt, who won first place in Level 2 last season, eked out a season's best of 37.250 (out of 40) to double her victory in claiming back-to-back first place titles at this meet, a first time feat for any Bahamian gymnast. Chalking up first place finishes on Vault (9.55 of 10) and Floor Exercise (9.425 of 10) and second place on Balance Beam (9.225 of 10), Pratt placed her Level 3 team in medal contention. Sturrup won second place last year in Level 2 and improved to first place in her Level 3 age division this time. Bespectacled Sturrup vaulted again to a 9.60 highest season and country score, as at Magical Classic last month to solidify her place in the sport. With an All-Around score of 36.875 (out of 40), Sturrup's first place contributed handsomely to the team division's qualification.
Candace Murphy, Madisson Deveaux and Sanaa Saunders boosted the team's winning chances in the team division with second place on Vault and third place on Floor Exercise to seal the fourth place title for Level 3 in the All-Around Team standings. Murphy charted an opportunity in the team standings for her club with a 37.075 All-Around score, the highest for Level 3 for the country. Mesmerizing Murphy raised her team's chances for medal contention with a second place on Floor Exercise (9.350) and third place on Uneven Bars (9.225). Deveaux and Saunders ranked ninth and 10th respectively in their age divisions with All-Around scores of 36.175 and 36.025, thereby smashing all doubt that this team is the country's strongest compulsory level team. Both Deveaux and Saunders recorded their season's best and personal best in the All-Around division.
"This team of gymnasts attracted attention at every meet we attended and for the key reason that they displayed a high level of sportsmanship and competed with a great sense of national pride. They exceeded expectations and for their third meet abroad this season, made all of the corrections and adjustments to produce personal best and season best scores which is a victory itself. All of the medals and trophies are just icing on the cake of hard work," said Co-Head Coach Kachara Marshall. Marshall, who is an english language teacher at D.W. Davis, and has built a solid reputation for some of the best results on the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) exam with mixed ability students, applies the same concepts which have secured successes for her in academics to sports.
"I don't get to hand-pick the students I teach or screen them as in the private schools so I have determined to pull the best out of every young person who is entrusted to my supervision. I started training and coaching gymnastics in 2010 when Bahamas Star Gymnastics opened its doors and apply principles of discipline and hard work to draw the best results from our squad of athletes, talented or not. I would never have dreamed back in 2010 that today the results would be so amazing and that our track record is one of constant improvement. The results from this season and especially this meet have motivated us to take the squad of athletes under our direction to new levels. Same core values repeating themselves as time honored principles."
Marshall teams up with Coach Idania Garcia-Stroud whose primary focus is on the development of the dance and artistic aspect of the sport. Adding to the equation in delivery of instruction is Coach Tenille Thompson, a former gymnast, whose contribution includes strengthening fundamentals and intensifying the conditioning levels in preparation for higher level skills. When asked whether the BSG gymnasts will likely qualify for the Olympics in future years, the coaching staff all respond, "God's will and time will tell."
Bahamas Star Gymnastics opened its doors on Bacardi Road in 2010 with its Starmania Summer Camp and has contributed to the hosting of the Atlantis Crown Gymnastics Invitational and other events such as coaches clinics which continue to improve the sports of gymnastics in the country. BSG will host its own meet, BGPBC-Bahamas Star Gymnastics Invitational, for the third consecutive year in late April.
Students from Freeport Gospel Chapel School, Bartlett Hill Primary School and Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Primary School recently benefited from a firsthand experience in nature.
The Grand Bahama Discovery Club, part of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) education program, treated students to an exciting and informative camping trip at the Rand Nature Center in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
"Through camping experiences like this, we are able to creatively introduce our Discovery Club members to the environment and teach them life skills that will benefit them in their future," said Portia Sweeting, BNT director of education.
"The camping experience allows students to get closer to nature while meeting students from different clubs."
Sixty students participated in the camping experience,which allowed them to learn more about the native plants and animals found at the Rand Nature Center. Additionally, they learned responsibility and the importance of teamwork, as the students aged 11 and 12 were responsible for preparing all of the meals, while the students, aged eight to 10 helped with the cleanup and dishwashing.
The Discovery Club is the youth arm of the BNT, with clubs established in four schools on Grand Bahama. Schools interested in establishing a club can contact the BNT at 352-5438 in Grand Bahama, or 393-1317 in New Providence. Parents and teachers can learn more on the BNT website at bnt.bs.
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.
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.
This is the second part of my response to a recent column by Philip Galanis in which he describes the PLP as "The Bahamas' first and some would argue only nationalist party", and proceeds to list some "accomplishments" of the PLP.
Efforts at making propaganda fact Galanis lifts a list of accomplishments from some PLP election propaganda sheet which even the PLP leadership must not believe and he attributes them to the Perry Christie government between 2002 and 2007. Only a blind sycophant could give any credence to the list.
Galanis' rose-tinted glasses do not admit failure by his political party. He claims that the first Christie government attracted some $17 billion in foreign direct investment, some $2.5 billion of which became tangible or real. Attracting investment that is not real is a most peculiar concept. It is more peculiar, in fact, than Galanis' failure to accept that the five-phased development of Atlantis was approved by the FNM in its first term in office and is an FNM accomplishment.
Galanis claims Baha Mar as a Christie government accomplishment without acknowledging that the agreement signed by Christie's government (with U.S. partners and financiers) faltered and was rendered void, and that a new agreement (with Chinese partners and financiers) had to be negotiated by the FNM government after 2007.
Galanis claims that the Christie government created 22,000 jobs between 2002 and 2007, about half the number created by the previous FNM government. He forgot to say that the jobs created during the PLP's term in office were overwhelmingly created on projects left in train by the FNM - at Atlantis, in Abaco and in Exuma.
Indeed, in Exuma, it was just the ribbon-cutting that was left for the PLP to do at the Four Seasons. When that operation faltered in 2006 it was left to the FNM returning to office in 2007 to find a new hotel owner and operator in Sandals. If Galanis can find an anchor project undertaken in Rum Cay or in Eleuthera during Christie's first term in office he should advise Bahamians where they might find them.
Galanis is silent on Grand Bahama where the FNM attracted Hutchison Whampoa to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of the Transshipment Port, in redeveloping the Grand Bahama International Airport, and in the construction of the Our Lucaya Hotel.
Also on the FNM's watch mega ship care and repair was developed in Grand Bahama, the Pelican Bay resort was constructed and new investment and technology was introduced into the island's oil storage and transshipment facilities. Christie's legacy in Grand Bahama continues to be the closure of the Royal Oasis Hotel following the 2005 hurricane, a resort he was proud to open with the police band in tow, weeks after coming to office for the first time in 2002.
As Galanis seeks to give credit for development in The Bahamas he would do better to glance through the pages of the 40th Anniversary of Independence book assembled by Jones Publications. The book records, among other things, the infrastructural developments of the past 40 years of independence. The pictorial representation is incomplete but still if one were to stamp PLP or FNM on the lasting permanent improvements in our infrastructure they would overwhelmingly be stamped FNM.
Nationalists who promote the wellbeing and glory of one's own fundamental values In three non-consecutive terms in office the FNM shaped the infrastructural landscape of our country: the new town centers in South Beach, Carmichael Road and Elizabeth Estates; the new government ministry complexes - education, health, customs headquarters, new courts in New Providence.
Then there are the Judicial Complex, Police Headquarters, and new C. A. Smith government administrative complex in Grand Bahama.
The new taxi call-up system at Prince George Dock and the hair-braiders' pavilion also at the Prince George Wharf, the National Art Gallery and the Junkanoo Expo are all FNM accomplishments as are the extension and or upgrade of electricity, telephone and water services throughout the Family Islands, new community health clinics on eight Family Islands including Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island and San Salvador and another in South Beach, New Providence; new schools, primary and secondary, in New Providence and also in Grand Bahama, Abaco, and Long Island, and expansion of other existing schools around the country. A new airport terminal building and runway were constructed at San Salvador and the airport at Rock Sound, Eleuthera was acquired, the runway resurfaced and a new terminal building constructed.
A new international sea port, the new airport terminal building in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, the new government administration complex and the new community hospital nearing completion in central Abaco were all FNM accomplishments. And the FNM dredged and deepened Nassau Harbour (over the objections of the PLP), built the new Nassau straw market, constructed new magistrates courts and acquired and began restoration of a new judicial complex in Nassau; commenced the three-phased redevelopment of LPIA opening the new U.S. Departure terminal and leaving the International Arrival Terminal to be opened weeks following the 2012 general election.
The new library and communications center at COB was realized by the FNM as were the new national stadium, the 20-corridor-plus New Providence roads and utility upgrade project and the new four-lane Airport Gateway Project. The new adolescent and child care facility at Sandilands Hospital, the new emergency and operating theater wing at Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama; the new Critical Care Block now under construction at Princess Margaret Hospital, and new community hospitals under construction in Exuma are all FNM accomplishments. The list is unending.
Social conscience in government
Socially the FNM has been responsible for fulfilling the PLP's unfulfilled promise in virtually every sector of Bahamian life.
Since 1992 the FNM freed the airwaves and licensed private radio broadcasts, made access to cable television possible and introduced live T.V. coverage of meetings of Parliament from gavel to gavel. The FNM introduced elected local government in its second term in office - a promise first made by the PLP in the 1950s while in opposition and reiterated again in 1968 as government but never brought to fruition.
The FNM privatized BTC and liberalized the communications sector.
The FNM also increased old age pensions, established a resident Court of Appeal and appointed Bahamians as justices in that court for the first time. They established the Industrial Tribunal, introduced minimum wage, introduced sick leave and enhanced maternity leave benefits, established minimum standards and conditions of employment, reduced the work week from 48 to 40 hours, increased the school leaving age from 14 to 16, removed discrimination from our inheritance laws and provided in law that all children, regardless of the marital status of their parents, have two parents. And the FNM created the Eugene Dupuch Law School where Galanis' wife is proud to serve as principal.
The FNM also established the UWI Medical School faculty in The Bahamas, introduced unemployment benefits, introduced a prescription drug benefit and enacted a Freedom of Information Act. It is only left for the PLP to sign the appointed day notice to bring the act into force.
The FNM appointed the first Bahamian directors of Legal Affairs and of Public Works since independence, appointed the first women to the Bahamas Cabinet since independence, Doris Johnson having been dismissed prior to 1973. The FNM was also responsible for the appointment of the first female chief justice, the first female president of the Court of Appeal, the first female speaker of the House of Assembly, and since independence, the first female president of the Senate. In its second term in office the FNM caused 50 percent of the Senate to be comprised of women.
Galanis seems to believe that the PLP has a legacy in public housing. In reality the Pindling PLP government struggled to complete housing developments under development by the UBP government in Yellow Elder and Big Pond.
It was not until 1982 and the appointment of a young Hubert Ingraham to Cabinet that the PLP undertook new government housing projects - at Elizabeth Estates, Flamingo Gardens, Nassau Village and Palm Tree Estates in New Providence, and housing estates were undertaken in Freeport and in Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama and in Cooper's Town, Abaco. Ingraham was dismissed from Cabinet two years later and the new government housing initiative stalled. It did not resume until after the FNM's 1992 election victory after which new housing projects were undertaken at Millennium, Jubilee, and Emerald Gardens. The pace was improved under the first Christie-led government but the overall poor standard of construction of that government's housing program dramatically curtailed its benefits.
Unfinished agendas Yes, Galanis, there is an unfinished agenda for development in our country, but it is the FNM that has such an agenda. It is an agenda of the 'good' who, having been too young to be a part of the first revolution and having been forced out of the ruling party, became intent on their watch after 1992 on realizing the new long-awaited second revolution which they sought to achieve through improved social policies, enhanced economic opportunities, broadened Bahamian ownership in the economy and open, transparent and accountable government. The agenda of the PLP and in particular of this Christie led-PLP government is an unfinished agenda of obtaining privileges and benefits for a select few. It is an unfinished agenda that suggests that holding up those heroes of the first revolution imperfect - though they be - is sufficient. That is why Perry Christie could travel to Washington D.C., and talk about social justice on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech but remain silent on the shameful mismanagement of an investigation into alleged abuse in a Bahamas government detention center at home.
Yes, Galanis, the PLP is in dire need of new causes to champion. They can begin by recognizing the right of the opposition to a voice in Parliament. They can begin by championing open, honest accountability and transparent government.
They can begin by committing themselves to fiscal restraint, abandoning wasteful expenditure on useless or unnecessary expensive foreign travel, and on the granting of government contracts to politically-connected but unqualified contractors.
They can begin to act to create real jobs. They can begin by stopping the politicization of crime. They can begin by acting so as to bring honor to our name internationally.
Finally, in the spirit of championing causes and promoting transparency, Galanis might begin by telling the Bahamian people why he was denied his party's nomination to return to the House of Assembly and why, following so promising a career start, he elected to leave the engagement of the renowned accounting firm which had trained and groomed him for leadership.
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.
Teachers at Carlton Francis Primary School staged a sit-in yesterday over issues that included a "severe shortage of teachers" and a lack of adequate furniture for students.
Several teachers, who spoke to The Nassau Guardian on condition of anonymity, said some students are forced to stand or sit on the floor in classrooms because of a lack of chairs.
They also claimed that teachers in grades one and two have to move between classrooms because there are not enough instructors.
As the teachers stood behind the school gates, a group of about 20 parents stood on the other side demanding that the Ministry of Education address the concerns.
Other issues include a poor drainage system, mold in the classrooms, a leaking roof and the lack of a pedestrian crossing, the teachers and parents claimed.
Morgan Brooks, whose child is in the first grade at the school, said the lack of furniture at the start of the school year is inexcusable.
"Tell the minister (of education) to bring his chair from his office for my child to sit in," she said. "Bring his desk from his office for my child to sit at.
"Instead of focusing on cutting my teachers' [salaries], let's cut his salary for our roof because it is leaking... Bring us some furniture. Some of the children don't even have a desk to sit at. We need action and we need it now."
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald said the ministry recently received cabinet approval for the purchase of about $800,000 worth of furniture.
"From time to time we do have these issues that unfortunately schools have to deal with," he said.
"It's not to the point where we feel like it will impact the level of education...But we should have those matters addressed throughout the country."
As it relates to any other issues the teachers may have, Fitzgerald said he has asked Director of Education Lionel Sands to go to the school and meet with them.
"I want to get a full report before I make any determination," he said.
Parent Teacher Association (PTA) President Sharmaine Adderley said the problems at the school have been simmering for years.
"We've gotten promises year after year," Adderley said. "That's why we haven't said anything.
"This is the first three weeks of school and we find teacher shortages through the roof, teachers having to be taken to hospital for high blood pressure; we have to do something about it.
"Our teachers are standing here because they want to teach. This is not a lazy staff. These are workers. These are good teachers. So we are asking for them to step forward and get these things done. Bring in the people."
One angry father stormed on campus and brought out broken pastic chairs he claimed that second graders are forced to sit in. He placed the chairs in the middle of the road.
Shantell Mackey, who has two children who attend the school, noted the possibility of injuries that those chairs pose to the children.
"You see those prongs sticking out," she said, pointing at the broken chairs. "Can you imagine what type of injury a child can get?
"I really want the ministry to come and deal with issues that are happening with this school."
Shelly Anderson, who has a son in grade two, said it seems as if her child is only being entertained at school.
Anderson said she has yet to see evidence that he is learning anything.
"Every day I pick him up from school and I ask him, 'what did you do in school' or I look in his book and there is nothing. He says 'mommy they take me into the library and we watch movies'."
The school has just over 1,000 students and 46 teachers.
The sit-in follows similar action at Stephen Dillet and Uriah McPhee primary schools this week over conditions at those institutions.
Hundreds of teachers yesterday agreed to hold a strike vote, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson claimed yesterday, although no evidence was provided to confirm the numbers.
"We're trying our best not for it to go this far, but sometimes like my parents say, when you can't hear, you'll feel," she told reporters at BUT headquarters on Bethel Avenue.
"If the majority of the members say strike, then we're going to hit the streets."
Wilson said a date for the strike vote will be determined by next week.
In the meantime, she said she will write to the director of labor requesting that the Department of Labour oversee the vote.
Wilson noted that if the strike vote passes, a 16-day cooling off period is required.
"The 16-day cooling off period is an opportunity for the government to right the wrongs," she said.
"We hope that cooler heads will prevail... We hope that the government will use wisdom.
"We hope that the prime minister would intervene and give instructions to his subordinate ministers so that we could avoid all of these problems.
"We are going to send the additional information to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and we're asking for the ILO to send a group down to do conciliation and to intervene."
The BUT has already communicated to the ILO on denial of access to school campuses for the union and health and safety concerns at Stephen Dillet and Uriah McPhee primary schools, according to Wilson.
Those are just some of the concerns the BUT says it has with the Ministry of Education.
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald has previously said the BUT will only be allowed on campuses during after-school hours, or in the case of an emergency.
But Wilson insists the Ministry of Education cannot deny the union access during school hours. She said that is a "basic and fundamental" concern.
She likened the barring of executives to security officers barring a doctor from entering the Accident and Emergency section of a hospital.
"The school is an extension of our workplace because our members are there...It's union busting," she said.
As it relates to the health and safety concerns, Fitzgerald said the ministry has spent over $700,000 on repairs to both schools.
But Wilson said the union remains concerned. She said the union met with various education and government officials in the last two months, including the prime minister.
However, she said meetings have been fruitless.
Fitzgerald told The Nassau Guardian on Sunday that the union wants to threaten and bully the government to get its own way instead of resolving disputes through the right process.
"I think it's unfortunate, and I think it's unnecessary," he said. "In many cases, it's illogical as well because it really has nothing to do with pay or benefits or rights of teachers.
"The issues which they are raising really don't impact [the] members. Issues which did involve the teachers, I think we have addressed to a great extent."
On November 6, the BUT asked all teachers who normally participate in after-school activities to end their participation in those activities.
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.