By EARYEL BOWLEG
THE Ministry of Education said officials are addressing the issues plaguing two Family Island schools.
This comes after students at Harbour Island All-Age School protested over the lack of teachers and Progressive Liberal Party Senator Michael Darville raised concern about health and safety issues at Acklins Central High School which led the campus to close.
In a press statement, the ministry said officials are “aware of the need to care for all students, teachers and administrators in the school system” and “consider their overall well-being to be a major priority”.
“As soon as a concern is brought to our attention, the Ministry of Education immediately seeks to put in place the necessary steps to address the issue raised,” the statement noted.
The ministry added that contractors are on the ground at Acklins Central High School to repair the bathroom block and septic tank facility. The school —which closed on Monday — will remain shut until Friday while repairs are carried out.
Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson told The Tribune that the ministry’s Virtual School platform is “not working properly” and students are losing hours of teaching.
Nevertheless, the ministry still promoted “providing an enhanced offering of subjects to the Acklins-based secondary school” through the platform and said the internet connection is being addressed to ensure the virtual school programme works.
In September 2018, the Ministry of Education began putting in place the foundation to facilitate distance learning through the internet.
“A major component of this exercise involved the formalised, institutionalised establishment of a distance learning programme. Since that time, our online platform has been formatted to address the teacher shortages in the smaller islands and cays which lacked instructional leaders for specialty courses,” the statement read.
“We are pleased to advise that currently, BTC and Cable Bahamas are working to increase the Acklins school’s fibre optic capacity, thereby strengthening the internet capacity to ensure a seamless online connection for the online classroom capacity on the island.
“Through the additional instructional hours provided by the Virtual School connectivity, students in Acklins will be able to register for a maximum of nine Bahamas Junior Certificate courses (BJC) and ten Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations (BGCSE) courses this school year, a considerable improvement over the five or six subjects which were the norm for students at this school in the past.”
As for Harbour Island All Age School, the ministry said it is aware of students’ after school protest at the island’s dock and the need for an additional language arts teacher, an issue expected to be remedied soon. Still, the ministry said there has been no loss of instructional time at the school, due to teacher substitutions within the language department.
Director of Education Marcellus Taylor admitted previously that the ministry had a hard time finding teachers to be permanently stationed at the school but said he was not aware of the actual conditions and would have to speak with the principal.
Mr Taylor said recently, “The environment I cannot speak on, I have not been there myself and have to speak directly with principal. Architect drawings of a new school is in the works, but with everything that Dorian left, we cannot say exactly when. Renovations and upgrades for the school has been talked about for some time.”
The ministry’s press statement insisted that the campus undergoes “continual maintenance throughout the year” and that “routine repairs and renovations are currently ongoing.”