By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
EDUCATION Director Marcellus Taylor yesterday reaffirmed the government’s policy to register all school-aged children regardless of legal status.
Mr Taylor was asked to respond to a statement by human rights group Rights Bahamas (RB), which alleged “certain public schools” continued to demand proof of status from students seeking to register.
Dawrin Thompson, chair of RB’s Education Committee, had sounded the alarm on two schools in May and has warned the organisation would pursue legal action if any child is barred from starting the new school year.
“Every child that is presently living in the Bahamas, regardless of their status, their parent’s status, or their nationality, has the right to an education. There are no exceptions to this. Education is a fundamental human right and we intend to hold those that breach this right responsible,” Mr Thompson stated yesterday.
“We call upon all schools in the Bahamas to cease and desist demanding proof of status at registration immediately. We also call upon the Department of Education to uphold their minister’s stated policy, the laws of the Bahamas and the international agreements to which our country is signatory.
“The new school year is upon us and if this problem is not rectified, it could result in many children being unable to register in time for class. That cannot be allowed to happen. If the situation is not rectified immediately, Rights Bahamas will have no choice but to take legal action against the government in defence of the fundamental rights of these children.”
When contacted by The Tribune, Mr Taylor said the only complaint he received in the matter had come from Rights Bahamas in May.
At that time, the group alleged CV Bethel Senior High School and DW Davis Junior High School had notified parents that student applications must be accompanied with proof of residency or citizenship.
“We have spoken to those schools and it shouldn’t be an issue now,” Mr Taylor said.
“Our policy is clear that any child who is of school age who presents himself is supposed to be registered.”
Mr Taylor confirmed schools only require valid identification, which could be a passport, birth certificate or national insurance card.
“If they are from another country, then a valid ID from that country is fine,” he added.
“The only thing is we need to know who the person is who is registering. You can’t show up with no ID, you have to bring something because we have to properly identify but the policy is anyone who resides here ordinarily in the Bahamas and are of school-age should be registered.”
He added: “If Rights Bahamas or any individual is having a problem with that then all they have to do is write us, or go to district superintendents office in the appropriate area and the matter would be addressed.”