On Wednesday, I published an article about a family who had run afoul of the Law of Barbados for not sending their children to school. That article was written from a logical but uninformed position. This article on the contrary is written from a more informed position.
Yesterday I set out on a mission to find the family in question and ascertain their perspective on the situation. On the journey with me to find this family were my Queen and her two children. It was late evening when we arrived in the general area of where I was told the family lived. We asked some young people if they knew where the family lived and were told that we would have to park and walk through a path to their house. After a brief hike, we found them.
When we arrived, only the father, Ijuijah (Exalt Jah), was at home; he was very welcoming. While speaking to him, his Queen, Isartesibre (Princess of Joy) and their two children, Ijuijah Sifahne, which means Ijuijah the 2nd and Isartesibre Sirine, which mean Princess of Joy Fulfilled, joined us.
Ijuijah told us that based on the Constitution of Barbados, he had a right to freely practise his religion and under that freedom he could home school his children. He introduced us to Section 19 (1) to (3) of the Constitution, which speaks to the protection of freedom of conscience:
- (1) Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience and for the purpose of this section the said freedom includes freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
(2) Every religious community shall be entitled, at its own expense, to establish and maintain places of education and to manage any place of education which it wholly maintains.
(3) No religious community shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for persons of that community in the course of any education provided by that community whether or not that community is in receipt of any government subsidy, grant or other form of financial assistance designed to meet, in whole or in part, the cost of such course of education.”
However under the Barbados Education Act, persons seeking to home school need to acquire permission from the Minister of Education. Section 42 of the Act reads: “(1) A child of compulsory school age may be exempted from compulsory attendance at school on any of the following grounds (a) the child is receiving special education; (b) the child is receiving instruction at home in a manner and to a standard satisfactory to the Minister; (c) the child is unable to attend school because of sickness, danger of infection, infirmity, sudden or serious illness of a parent, or other sufficient cause; (d) religious observance” Brother Ijuijah is contending that based on his constitutional rights, he does not have to adhere to “a manner and to a standard satisfactory to the Minister.”
Brother Ijuijah has been found guilty by the Court of Law and has been sentenced to one month in prison starting October 7th. It is important to note that a $50 fine could have been imposed on him. According to Brother Ijuijah, when he argued the point of his constitutional right as his defense, it angered the magistrate who, without hesitation or consideration, sentenced him to one month in prison.
Added to this, the Barbados Child Care Board (BCCB) is seeking to have custody of the children taken away from the parents. Brother Ijuijah said the BCCB had already come and placed the children in the custody of their grandmother and gave her the task of making sure the children went to school. The grandmother said that at her age, she was unable to take on the responsibility by herself. So the children remained at home.
At this point, I asked if anyone had come to perform any educational assessment of the children. I was told no assessment has been done and only the newspaper reporters had asked to hear the children read. I had read in the newspaper that the young man read from the bible for them. Ijuijah then turned to his son and told him to read my t-shirt. I was wearing my Hekima: Wisdom Wear tee and was amazed at the ease and fluency with which this young man was able to read my shirt, given the negative publicity surrounding the children’s level of academic ability. Mom then suggested that her son read the part of the Constitution that pertained to the matter at hand, and that he did with the same ease with which he had just minutes before read my shirt.
While all this was going on, 9 year old Isartesibre Sirine and my Queen’s son, Isaiah, who is 11, were busy playing with the family’s dogs. Isaiah, who just started school at the St Michael School, noted that Ijuijah Sifahne read just as well or even better than he did. Ayan, who only two days ago turned 13, listened attentively to the family’s story and is of the opinion that what is being done to them is completely unfair. She saw two siblings who are very similar to any children their age, who are well adjusted, intelligent, articulate and who display a high degree of self confidence.
Much interest has been expressed by various groupings and individuals in this case as they are all of the opinion that breaking up this family is not the answer and certainly prison is not an acceptable course of action to be imposed by the law courts of this land. That being said, the African Heritage Foundation, in conjunction with the Rastafari community, has proposed:
- A meeting be convened on Monday at the Israel Lovell Foundation headquarters at 6pm, inviting all interested persons and groupings, lawyers, media houses and representatives from the Child Care Board.
- A position paper to be completed with recommendations from the community to the Child Care Board for alternative action for the children.
- An appeal be made for Brother Ijuijah’s prison sentence to be commuted to a fine.
Thus far, Sister Asheba Trotman of the Rastafari Culture Circle has secured the services of a lawyer who is willing to represent this family without requiring monetary compensation.
If you are interested in attending the upcoming community meeting, you are kindly asked to call or message via WhatsApp 268 7084, send an email to email@example.com or comment on this article. Ijuijah and family will be in attendance to give further clarifications on the matter at hand.
Again we are asking educators, parents of home schooled children, Rastafari brothers and sisters, youth groups, Pan African organisations and all interested people to speak up and join us in finding a more wholesome solution for the sake of these children and the two loving parents.
You can read the first article on this affair at this link: http://www.afrikanheritage.com/justice-for-home-schooling-the-people-must-act-government-needs-to-care/
Please feel free to leave your comments. You are asked to help build the awareness of this case by sharing this article and inviting your friends to the meeting.