Ten thousand students have been displaced by Hurricane Dorian, according to the Ministry of Education.
The ministry said yesterday that with the support of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) the government of The Bahamas began registering those students to enroll them as soon as possible in safe schools that have not been affected by the natural disaster.
“No child in The Bahamas should be at risk of dropping out of school because of Dorian,” Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said.
“As a nation, we will not let this happen. Our paramount concern is to make sure all students are back to school as soon as possible.
“After the devastating impact left by Hurricane Dorian, education is our best investment and a cornerstone of the whole reconstruction process. Dorian may have put us on our knees, but education will bring us back on our feet.”
The registration process was not without some concerns.
Shalanda Joachim, 15, was living in The Mudd shantytown in Abaco when Hurricane Dorian hit the island on September 1.
“They talking about they have to [register] the children in shelters before they [register] the children in homes,” she said.
“I mean, I understand they’re in shelters but we’re in the same situation. It’s not fair. I feel like it’s holding me back because I’m ready to get over grade 11.”
Shalanda added, “It [doesn’t] feel good being somewhere you’re not used to. I wish I was home now in Abaco.”
Directing her words to the government, she said, “Make things better, not just the Ministry of Education but also the government. They need to [step up] their game or whatever they’re doing.”
The ministry hosted an enrollment session at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
“Registration will take place on a scheduled basis, beginning with children residing in the Kendal G. L. Isaacs Gymnasium,” the ministry said.
“It was confirmed by officials at a NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) press briefing on Wednesday, September 11. Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Lorraine Symonette-Ambrister, further clarified via a telephone interview that ‘we will not deny any child enrollment in government schools.’”
The statement said people not residing in shelters should contact the ministry “to allow for an organized scheduling of the registration process”.
Sherry Ambrister, a senior nursing officer at the Ministry of Health, said the government was also holding health screenings for students at the registration session.
Some residents impacted by Dorian’s wrath were grateful for the exercise.
Antonia Davis, 31, a Cedar Harbour resident, described the process as “quick”.
“It’s just taking your name and number and they’ll call you,” Davis said.
“I don’t know how that will work out but it is what it is. I have a 12-year-old boy.”
Asked if she had any backup plans in case her son was unable to be enrolled in a government school, Davis said, “I have a lot of hope, but I’ll have to try out options and see what I can do.”
However, not all storm victims agreed with Davis.
Kenny Murray, 57, a Dundas Town resident, was turned away as he tried to register four of his grandchildren.
He expressed frustration with the priority list.
“The process, it stinks,” Murray said.
“I don’t know why they want to do the kids in the shelters first. If all of us [were] hurt, now why is it that you’re going to pick out who you want to serve?”
He said, “We need help and we need help all around. The children will be disadvantaged by this process. I am very concerned about what’s going to happen to our kids.”
The registration will take place at the stadium until October 11, 2019.