Bahamians generally pride themselves in loving and taking care of their children. But there is a sad contradiction between our professed care for children and the treatment meted out to far too many of them in our country.
It is true that most Bahamian parents are defensive of their children’s poor behavior, almost to a fault.
Indeed, we have commented in this column on the predisposition of mothers in particular to dismiss allegations of misdeeds by their adult children proclaiming the innocence of their “good children” even when they are charged with serious crimes before the courts.
Strangely, this predisposition to excuse bad behavior exists simultaneously with troubling statistics from guidance counselors and social workers that tell a tale of terrible neglect and abuse, both verbal and physical, of far too many children, almost from infancy.
This week, three adults received custodial sentences from the courts, the result of two separate incidents where children were abused.
An eight-year-old was beaten with a belt by an adult in whose care he had been left and separately, a toddler, was seemingly exposed to alcohol by an adult with the permission of a father.
The Biblical admonition “spare the rod and spoil the child” has been used to excuse the use of physical discipline by parents, guardians and sometimes some educators that leave children bruised and scarred.
As bad, poor parenting skills subject many children to disparaging verbal correction, shouted and yelled in a manner meant to force them into compliance.
Instead many children respond with aggressive, both physically and verbally, or alternatively, become scared and insecure, the precursors for anxiety and low self-esteem.
The unhappy result for us have been increased levels of abuse, physical, psychological and sexual, in society with terrible consequences for social harmony and respect for law and order.
The minister of national security is perturbed that the government and his ministry in particular, are being called upon to finally give an accounting for the missing and presumed dead from Hurricane Dorian in September, 2019.
The minister need only to review the time line of information available to the public to understand the concern of the public.
The death toll from Hurricane Dorian rose quickly from five to 45 by late September.
By February 2020 the total number of deaths reached 74, where it now stands.
In the week following the hurricane, reports indicated that as many as 6,000 people were unaccounted for.
Then as family members and relatives contacted each other, NEMA reduced the number of missing to 2,500 and then to 1,300 by mid-September 2019.
On September 27, the prime minister addressed the United Nations and informed that some 600 people were still unaccounted for.
On October 2, NEMA placed the number of missing at 424 and the prime minister repeated that number in the House of Assembly.
Shortly thereafter, a BIS press release quoted Minister for Social Services Frankie Campbell stating “we have just under 800 persons who are unaccounted for…”
Then on October 9, Campbell raised the number of the missing to 1,208 in a report to the House of Assembly: 1,003 in Abaco and 205 in Grand Bahama
On October 10, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames advised that the police had put the number of missing persons at 282, and that going forward all accounting for the missing would come from the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
In January 2020, then Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said that the missing persons count stood at 54.
On May 22, the remains of 55 unidentified victims of the storm were buried in Abaco.
On May 24, Assistant Commissioner Solomon Cash said that the number of missing from the hurricane was 33.
On June 14, Minister Dames said that the number of missing stood at 279.
A list of the names of missing persons and of their last address or island of residence has never been released by the government.
The publication of such a list would go a long way in resolving for many exactly who remains unaccounted for.