Dem nah deal with the real issue! As I read and listen to various comments on the issue of the Rastafari couple charged and found guilty of not sending their children to school, I am left to say once again, we continually make judgements based on uninformed positions. This is not the fault of the nation. They can only make their assessments on the information provided. It is for that reason I am going to share with you some facts surrounding this case. Since the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) has taken a keen interest in this matter and has gathered factual information from the parents, the grandmother, the children and representing lawyers, we are most certainly in a position to bring you the facts.
- In very much of what I am reading, the Minister of Education and a senator spoke to following procedure. This is a very good place to start - Procedure! Procedure? It is being put to the nation that the Rastafari family in question failed to apply for permission to home school. Not true. The fact is a letter, which I was privileged to read, was sent to the Ministry of Education stating that they, the parents of two children, intended to home school their children, giving reasons for their decision to do so. Their decision to do so – very important – and this will be addressed as this article proceeds. The letter was submitted to the Ministry and it was ignored. Well, I should say no response was provided and the parents continued to home school. The letter spoke to the subject matter, which was being taught to the children. Granted, what was submitted may not have met the requirements of the Minister of Education; it would have been prudent for the Minister to follow up and give guidance on what was acceptable. Questions to be asked: Does the Ministry of Education have a prescribed form or application for home schooling that parents can fill out? Do they have some form of booklet or pamphlets that give instruction in the matter? Do they have a division or officers assigned to home schooling? So, after there was no response to the letter from the Ministry, the next thing this couple received was a charge and summons to appear in Court.
- Still on procedure, who is asking questions about the procedure of the Child Care Board (CCB), which is at the heart of all this turmoil? The fact is, without having an assessment completed of the children’s educational proficiency levels, the CCB moved to remove custody of the children from the parents and give it to their 80 year old grandmother. The grandmother, in support of her son, and knowing the children were well cared for and educated, refused to take responsibility and now also has to be up and down to Court on this matter. It is a fact that no legal documents were produced by the CCB when attempting to take custody of the children from the parents. The fact is the custody case is only now being heard – after the fact. Who is asking the CCB about procedure in this case?
- Fact! After being found guilty, the parents with the assistance of the wider community and the AHF have retained legal representation. On the attorneys’ first appearance in Court on behalf of the family, they saw that the charges were trumped up and should have had no legal standing in a court of law. When presented with this fact, the Prosecution then asked for three weeks to prepare their case.
- While the debate on home schooling and the discrimination against Rastafari rages on, the reason for the parents desire to home school is being lost. Let us find it and guide it on its way. The father of the children has stated that he found the present public school environment unsafe and unmoral and he failed to see how his children could be truly educated in that atmosphere. I have heard no one in the political arena address this in all the ongoing deliberations. What is the responsibility of the schools and of the Ministry of Education in protecting our children’s mental and physical wellbeing? Or is school a place where you send your children at their own risk? Do we have compensation for bullying from schools or does all the blame fall on the parents of the child doing the bullying? If I send my child to school and he/she is beaten up, who do I hold responsible outside of the actual bully? Again, is it the bully’s parents or is it the school? We all know the answer to that question as most of us fearfully send out children out to school five days a week. Furthermore, who is responsible for the children who consistently “fail” academically? Can we blame the teachers for that? Will they stand trial if my child does not know how to read by the time he/she has left school? In my mind, these are the fundamental issues that face us as this case proceeds.
It is hoped that this article is shared as much as the post of the son reading the part of the Barbados Constitution that deals with his religious freedoms. It is important that the nation have the facts so our conversations will be more informed and our indignations better founded.
On behalf of the AHF, I Simba, President, thank the public for its support and well wishes for this family. We are confident that after reading this article you will see why the cry of discrimination and victimisation is being heard from the Rastafari community and many others in society. Our victory – “Our”, meaning those of us who want to see justice prevail in this matter – rests on our ability to present the facts to the people as well as our ability to stand up and speak out when we see injustices being executed. While the facts are presented in Court, we the people must present the facts to the nation. Your duty now is to help take this message to the nation. Please share as much as you can. People’s Power.
P.S. A corrupt system thrives on our ignorance and our silence.
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