NASSAU/PANAMA/NEW YORK, 12 September 2019 – With the support of UNICEF, the Government of the Bahamas today begins registering approximately 10,000 students displaced by Hurricane Dorian to enroll them back as soon as possible in safe schools that have not been affected by the natural disaster.
“No child in The Bahamas should be at risk of dropping out of school because of Dorian,” said The Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd, Minister of Education. “As a nation, we will not let this happen. Our paramount concern is to make sure all students are back to school as soon as possible. After the devastating impact left by Hurricane Dorian, education is our best investment and a cornerstone of the whole reconstruction process. Dorian may have put us on our knees, but education will bring us back on our feet.”
UNICEF welcomes the decision by the Government of the Bahamas to invite parents and guardians of displaced students, aged 4 to 19, to seek enrolment in Government schools starting in New Providence. This nationwide registration process starts today at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, and is due to be gradually rolled out in other areas of the country in the coming weeks.
“Dorian made many displaced students go through traumatic experiences as they witnessed horrible scenes of total destruction, suffering and even the loss of parents and neighbors,” said Bernt Aasen, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Region. “In the aftermath of a natural disaster of such magnitude, schools should not only be places to learn but also safe environments to rebuild shattered lives and heal internal wounds through play and friendship. For the displaced children, it’s a powerful sign of hope, an opportunity to go back to a sense of normal life, in the classroom and in the playground.”
UNICEF is providing support to the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Services in building up a secure central data management system to facilitate this school registration until mid-October. Displaced students who register for schooling will also be able to access multiple services from other Ministries and authorities during this process, including medical screenings required for school enrolment, uniform and lunch assistance, referrals for counseling services and referrals for enrolment in social, sporting and extra-curricular activities, with free bus transportation where needed.
“We salute the decision made by the Government of the Bahamas to integrate all children who have been displaced into existing schools,” said Naqib Safi, UNICEF Team Leader for the Hurricane Dorian Response. “This measure requires teachers to know how to create a conducive environment where displaced students can learn free of stigma and discrimination and receive the specific attention they need. Amidst these difficult times for the Bahamas, we support the Government in these efforts to reach the most vulnerable children. Hurricane Dorian turned the lives of thousands of children upside down, going back to school will help them make a new start.”
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF will also start a series of training of trainers to upgrade the skills of school counselors, teachers, and social workers across the country to deliver psychosocial support and recreational activities to displaced students and children in host communities.
Next week, UNICEF and the Government of the Bahamas will start distributing 120 recreational kits transported by the Government of Jamaica. Designated for both schools and shelters, these recreational supplies will help about 6,000 children affected by Hurricane Dorian to overcome pain and trauma through play, sports and learning.