Students at The University of The Bahamas discuss The People’s Constitution.
BAHAMIAN political scientist, Keisha Lynne Ellis, seeks to help every person in the country understand the Bahamian Constitution with her book, “The People’s Constitution: A Layman’s Interpretation of the Constitution of The Bahamas”.
Ms Ellis, a writer and political science lecturer, noted that many of her students possessed no familiarity of the Constitution.
“Few citizens understand the Bahamian Constitution,” she said. “It is not taught in schools and even most adults have never actually read it. Because it is written in legal terms, many people find it difficult or tedious to read.”
This alarming realisation consumed Ms Ellis and she began her two-year, page-by-page, journey of transcribing the Constitution, the foundation of human rights and government power, into a more simplified, reader friendly version.
The pocket-sized book is an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand translation of the complete original constitution, according to a press release.
“We cannot truly call ourselves a democracy if all of our citizens do not understand the foundation of our government,” Ms Ellis said. “Most people believe that only politicians and lawyers have to know the Constitution, but that is absolutely not true. As citizens we are all responsible for making sure that our rights are protected and that power is not abused.”
The public discourse that sprang from the both 2002 and 2016 constitutional referenda made it clear that the Constitution is not perfect, however, because so few Bahamians have actually read it, it is difficult for the average person to weigh on amendments that need to be made, a press release from the author said. “This leaves the population in a position of subordination to those who have had the time and resources necessary to sit down and study the Constitution,” Ms Ellis said. “This is not how a democracy should function.”
Hundreds of people have already purchased the book and the boys at Programme SURE are among the first students to have The People’s Constitution introduced in their classroom, the press release said. Programme SURE, which is operated by the Ministry of Education, is an alternative school for troubled children who have been removed from the mainstream school system.
Social studies teacher Ean Maura invited the writer to talk to his students about the importance of knowing the Constitution.
“Informing the students of their rights goes a long way in providing alternatives to addressing their concerns and potentially arrest their emotional divorce from the community and the nation,” Mr Maura said. “The language used in The People’s Constitution is much more digestible, which gives the words even more meaning and power and the Constitution, itself, more relevance.”
The publication is available at Logos Bookstore, Book World and Stationers, Chapter One Bookstore and Buy The Book in New Providence. Distribution to Family Islands is scheduled to begin soon.