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Immigration and Education must work together to curtail enrollment of illegal immigrants in public schools

A new school year has begun and teachers have gotten off to a great start but they are still challenged by the many children who begin school and do not speak any English. It has become clear that these children arrived in the Bahamas from Haiti and have now taken up residence in one of the Haitian communities on the island of Abaco. This has become a vexing problem for teachers but the laws of the Bahamas require that all under aged children be in school. This is a law that needs revisiting as having children in our school system who do not speak English compounds those challenges teachers already face in the schools including low performance, absenteeism, social ills, and lack of parental support.

After only two weeks of school for the 2012-2013 school year, some teachers are already frustrated that they are faced again with this issue. They do not understand the reason for these children to be in school without proper documents, material and the absence of English as their first language.

The Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson addressed this issue in Nassau recently but she needs to note that this is a vexing problem on the island of Abaco as well and has been so for a long time. Suggestions have been made to engage the ESL program again and again but to no avail. At both the public primary and high schools in Central Abaco this problem exists and every year teachers have to work hard to teach children they do not understand and who do not understand them.

I agree with Mrs. Wilson who stated that it is time for Education and Immigration officials have a conversation. If we are to take education seriously in the Bahamas as we constantly talk about, stating that we want to see improvements to an “E” national evaluation then we need to start by addressing one of the vexing problems in this country which is that of enrolling illegal immigrants in our school system who cannot speak English and cannot provide the school with proper documentation for enrollment. I hope those persons who sit in their cushy offices will take some time away from them to spend a day in the school system and see what we contend with on a daily basis.

School is not like it used to be in years past. It is a place where teachers come to teach but many children come for other reasons. It is a place where parents send their children but cannot find the time to meet their child’s teacher or come to PTA meetings. It is a place where kids are required to have workbooks, complete homework, and projects but parents are too busy to give their children thirty minutes of their time for four nights out of the week. School has become a place where parents send their sick children for the teachers to baby sit rather than take them to the doctor for medical care.

These are just some of the horrors teachers contend with on a daily basis yet they (the teachers) are blamed when the students do not perform. I can admit that some teachers are to blame for some kids failing as I have had my own experiences with this but for the most part, teachers are committed to teaching. Have we gotten so caught up in policies that we have forgotten that people, human-beings, work in the school systems? Have we forgotten that when we do not provide teachers with the supplies they need, a proper teacher’s desk, decent chairs and desks for the children and sanitary surroundings they get sick and burnt out by the end of the first term.

What have we become when we have the security officers clock the movement of teachers? Is signing in and out now not enough? What have we become in this Bahamas when we do not give teachers the respect and esteem we gave teachers of yesterday? What has changed? Think on these things.

About Timothy Roberts

Timothy had his first venture into Journalism just months after graduating from Queen’s College in Nassau taking his first job with The Tribune in 1991 leaving in 1992 for other pursuits.

During his time in Nassau he diversified his experiences working as a warehouse manager, locksmith and computer technician before returning to Abaco, a place he has always considered home, in 1999.

He joined the staff of The Abaconian in 2001 doing graphic design and writing an opinion article called Generally Speaking and after a brief time away, returned to The Abaconian in 2010 as a reporter, graphic designer and computer technician.

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