Displaced students being assigned to new schools

BY ANIKA RICHARDS
Associate editor — news/health
richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 13, 2019

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Government yesterday started assigning children displaced by Hurricane Dorian to new schools in this Atlantic archipelago.

The students are being registered on a staggered basis at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium in the capital in a programme that will continue today.

“It is essential that we get students from affected areas back to school as quickly as possible,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a national broadcast Wednesday night.

A total of 5,500 individuals have been evacuated from the two islands hit by Dorian Abaco and Grand Bahama to New Providence.

Speaking at a press conference at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Gladstone Road offices ahead of the prime minister's address, agency spokesman Carl Smith detailed the plan for registration.

“Parents and guardians of displaced students aged four to 19 can enrol them in a Government school in New Providence, or any of the unaffected islands,” Smith said.

He also said that students will be able to access services from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Services, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and the Royal Bahamas Police Force during the registration process.

“These include medical screening required for school enrolment; uniform and lunch assistance; referrals for counselling services and referrals for extra-curricular activities,” the NEMA spokesman said. “Where available, parents and guardians are requested to provide documentation for their children, including their immunisation cards,” Smith said, adding that the authorities understand and appreciate the fact that “some documents may have been lost” during the hurricane's passage.

According to Smith, buses will be provided from shelters to the national stadium and shelter managers will be informed of the registration schedule, which will be staggered to avoid long lines.

“All students from Abaco and Grand Bahama are expected to participate, whether or not they are in shelters. Those not in shelters should call the Ministry of Education… to receive details on the scheduling,” he said.

Just under 1,800 evacuees are currently in shelters in New Providence, the island where the national capital of Nassau is located.

Director of Education Marcellus Taylor, also speaking at Wednesday's press conference, said there is a plan in place to prevent overcrowding in classrooms.

“What we are doing now...we are confirming the numbers of available spaces in the various schools in New Providence... to systematically place students based on where we have available spaces and also in as close proximity to their intended location,” he said.

“One of the challenges we have, of course, is because people are in shelters today, maybe living with relatives tomorrow, maybe go back into the shelter; it's actually addressing this issue of trying to get them as close to a school where they live,” he said. “But our first order of business is to get them into a school.”

The director of education said the ministry does not want to create another problem by overcrowding schools.

“So we are looking at those schools that have the greatest capacity, putting students there first and then only looking for alternatives if those places become oversubscribed,” Taylor said.

Hurricane Dorian pummelled the two islands last week, displacing thousands and leaving at least eight dead in Grand Bahama and at least 42 dead in Great Abaco. Authorities believe these numbers could climb.


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