The African Heritage Foundation (AHF) accompanied the Lashley family to their court hearing regarding the custody of their two children today. The Barbados Child Care Board has brought a custody case against this family in an attempt to take custody of their two children and make them wards of the state. The foundation of their case is that the Ministry of Education has brought a case against the family for failing to send their children to school and not following proper procedure which would allow them to home school.
On Monday the 24th October the AHF represented by myself and Ms Leah Clarke along with Attorney at Law Mr Ajamu Boardi met with officials of the Ministry of Education to discuss the best way forward in the above mentioned case. It was stated by all parties present that we were all acting in the best interest of the children. We were told what the Ministry of Education required for the allowing of home schooling. It was highlighted that although a letter was sent in by the Lashley family to the Ministry of Education stating their intention to continue home schooling it was not accepted by the ministry as that. It was also stated that a curriculum and a work timetable had to be submitted along with names and qualification of intended educators. The AHF agreed to their request and further clarified the position of the parents in the methodology of how they would like their children schooled and the role they as the parents would play. It was agreed by all present that the religious perspectives and rights of the family be strictly observed as we proceeded in this delicate matter of religion vs education and institution. A question was asked by the AHF about assessments for the children. The Ministry of Education stated that no assessments of the children were carried out on their part. We the AHF then informed them that our organization had arranged to have assessments done and then summaries of the assessments for the two children were handed over to the representatives of the Ministry of Education. It must be noted that the assessments done were carried out by a professional in that field who also works on the behalf of the said ministry from time to time.
Within two days a revised letter of application to home school, with curriculum, work time table and intended educators with their qualifications was submitted to the Ministry of Education by the AHF on behalf of the Lashley family with their consent. Today the 27th October 27, 2016 the AHF submitted an affidavit that states our continued support of this family in the area of the education of their children.
With all this being done it would seem that the judge is moving in the direction of throwing the case out and has even questioned the jurisdiction of his court in hearing such a matter. He is of the opinion that the best place for the children at present is with their parents. However the Child Care Board seems relentless in their efforts to make the children wards of the state. According to what has been stated before it would seem that all other parties have the best interest of the children at heart and are working together to attain the best solution in this matter. It is only the Child Care Board that seems to be in it for the win and not acting in the best interest of the children. In the light of all the cooperation and extended assistance being given one would think the wellbeing of the children educationally would no longer be an issue. That is not the case. Even with all the discourse in the society about home schooling being held at various levels of our society and the overwhelming support for it as a viable means of instruction for children, the Child Care Board presses on as if the idea of home schooling was absurd.
I am left now with the feeling that this case was never about the wellbeing of the children but some sort of attack on this family to make an example of them. A warning perhaps, to other Rastafari families who have issues with the education system and would like to educate their children at home, to desist with this thought, seems to be the motive of the Child Care Board. Seeing it has been put out there by several political entities that home schooling is prevalent in Barbados and that the Child Care Board is not dragging parents that home school left and right before the court is an indicator that the real motive is not to fight home schooling but to fight a certain section of the community that would like to have this option open to them. Everyone and their grandparents agree that the Child Care Board has been found wanting in their duties of protecting children in Barbados. Cases of the abuse of children that have been reported to the Child Care Board that have been dealt with in less than satisfactory ways, that have led to the death of children are well documented in the minds eye of the Barbados society. Maybe this strong handed approach by the Child Care Board is a statement to Barbados saying “hey look we actually are working to keep our children protected from various forms of abuse.” Seeing that they are now out to save unabused children and remove them from the safe and loving environment of their parent’s shows that maybe the Child Care Board is not very clear on what abuse really is when it pertains to children.
Tomorrow morning the judge will give his decision on the matter. Will these two Rastafari children become wards of the state or will they be left in the custody of their parents? No matter the outcome, something needs to be done with the Child Care Board by those with the power to act. I hope that the Rastafari community can mobilize petitions for the government and UNICEF to look into this case. The Child Care Board needs shaking up. Lend a hand and help shake it.
Update: The case has been adjourned until 13th December 2016.