By Rev Canon S Sebastian Campbell
MORE than 40 years ago, the national flag carrier, Bahamas Airways, transported students and teachers from schools in New Providence on day trips to a number of Out Islands. Bravo! Super idea, exposing “city slickers” to the reality of life within the real Bahamas.
When I was 12 years, our school choir, Arthur’s Town All Age, won the National Music Festival.
I was a member of this talented, emerging group of musicians. The government of the Bahamas chartered a Bahamas Airways jet to airlift us to New Providence, thus giving us an exposure we could only dream about. We participated in a concert at the Government High School Auditorium and toured the city. What an eye opener! Such mechanisms were entrenched in our bid to expose those who really mattered, the children.
What intentional initiative is in place today?
An entrenched inferiority/superiority complex prevailed and it still exists in many forms today. We have unintentionally built this “Berlin Wall” of separation in this archipelago; or was it done intentionally? Don’t forget that on the campaign towards independence there were some well-placed leaders who insisted that Bahamians ought to always carry around identification cards that would state their island of residence as though to imply permission to travel out of the given Island and across the archipelago. The South African idea of Apartheid was to be entrenched.
Is there any thought given to the fair distribution of wealth over the islands? When talking Bahamas are we truly implying every cay and island we have kept “behind God’s back”? Look, let’s be real, ponder the following:
1. Fire engines: Is there one on Cat Island, Acklins and Mayaguana?
2. Potable water: Where is it flowing? Not in Cat Island, Crooked Island or Long Island
3. Fully equipped high schools complete with laboratories: Journeying to New Providence to school the word “laboratory” was unheard of to me.
Latrine: Heard that word before? Pit toilets still overwhelm the Out Island landscape.
5. Unemployment: Take island by island, cay by cay and get real statistics as to the reality of unemployment on each Island. The statistics we receive are reflective of New Providence and major islands maybe. The steady exodus of people from the Family Islands to New Providence continues unabated. Families are divided as the breadwinner is forced to more lucrative places and then send money back home. I know of an incident where a husband and father could only bond with his family one week every six months. We pay for this deficit in family life every day.
6. Bordering on this ‘unthoughtfulness’ in national development is the fact that many professional people, be it in the civil service and otherwise, are given Family Island postings without any thought to their families. So we have successfully put a wrench between married persons, their children and spouses. Consequently, they pay handsome sums monthly to keep an airline flying. I am well aware of this pain experienced by many in family life. Now one man has two homes to upkeep. There is nothing being put in place to even begin to address this vexing concern. We continue to operate on the same model of governance in national life that has been in place since pre-Majority Rule.
7. My own high school advancement was stunted, only because there were no high schools out there and finding a lodging place in New Providence was cumbersome. There is some degree of relief now in that there are high schools on many of our islands. However, some islands are exceptions to this. Still today, some Family Island children are held back because they can find no where to rest their heads elsewhere and do not have properly equipped schools in their local islands.
Anchor projects for our Family Islands are the ideal to stem the flow of people. No effort must be spared. The cost of living is twice that of New Providence; it’s only a miracle how they survive.
It proves that there must be a God looking down and taking care of his own. If only Members of Parliament are mandated to live in their constituency it might cause a revolution, don’t you think? It’s a clich�, and absolutely boring to hear MPs get up in Parliament saying, “I arise on behalf of the wonderful people of Andros etc.”
It’s boring and lacks substance. If they are so wonderful then go and live among them. Almost all our members of Parliament are New Providence or Grand Bahama representatives. That’s where you live and that’s the mindset you cultivate. Unless and until there is a radical paradigm shift, ‘One Bahamas’ remains elusive; it’s an ideal for which no effort can be spared to make a reality. But until then we must not tell untruths.