Justice For Home schooling: The people must act, government needs to care

The beauty in writing for a column on the African Heritage Foundation’s website is that one can write at any given time and it will be published. “Samson on the Wall” is a Sunday column that I have started, but we have an issue before us that needs some urgent attention and it cannot wait until Sunday.

As I wait for the start of the wind and the rain in this system that is now being called Tropical Storm Matthew, I am reflecting on the current status of the case of the family who is accused by the state of not sending their children to school and thus breaking the law of Barbados. I must first state that I have not at this point made contact with the family. My writing today is generalised again around the failings of a corrupt system that offers few positive solutions to pressing issues that face the masses of people in Barbados.

By law, in Barbados every child is required to attend school. The environment of the school can be traditional and public, private or at home with certain specifications met. At this point, I am assuming that the children in this case were tested by the relevant personnel and found not to be up to their given level of formal education (in Mathematics and English).  Although through the grapevine I am hearing differently, we are today going on logical assumptions. So the children are not up to par academically for their ages as far as the state is concerned. The parents have strong concerns about the social conditions and environments in our schools. I have a daughter at school and I share the concerns expressed by the parents in question here. In fact, I am sure the majority of parents in Barbados share this concern. Since the public shares this concern, I am thinking that the state should share this concern, that the relevant authorities, as agents of the general populous, should share this concern. This being the case, in seeking a solution to this problem, should the state even consider bringing charges against the parents here? Should the state go even further by thinking of removing the children from their home?

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Questions must be asked and parents who agree that other solutions must be found to the problem must at this time make our voices heard. I read a post by a sister on Facebook who was noting that many children go to school every day and are far behind the required level of learning for their ages based on the school curriculum. Who is charged for these children who leave school barely able to spell their names? People don’t get charged for that; they get paid and strike at the expense of the children when they don’t get paid. So why are these draconian measures being put forward by the state for this particular family? It is a fact that there are other children in Barbados who are home schooled; therefore, guidance can be given to the family in this area should it be required. I am also going to assume, since this matter has been going on for the better part of three years, that the family in question, knowing the state was investigating their case, would be making that extra effort to polish up on the home schooling. Again though, if they were not, could alternative solutions not be found to assist instead of arresting and convicting?

Without knowing any additional details, unless the parents are physically, mentally or emotionally abusing the children, they should be with their parents. On that note, I am recommending that we all have a national day of protest and keep our children at home on the day this family goes to court. This has to be a violation of basic human rights and we cannot just stand by and allow these things to happen.  All persons who are home schooling their children should get involved in this conversation and public action.

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Humanity demands our involvement and an opportunity has been clearly provided for us to act. I was given information that guilty was the given verdict in this case and today was supposed to have been the date for the family’s appeal. If this is in fact the case, we give thanks for the rains and winds, the elements of the Most High, for stalling today’s proceedings, as I believe that due to our weather conditions, the courthouse will be closed.

As a nation of thinking and caring people, this gives us time for a plan of action to be developed. I propose:

1.       Making contact with the parents to inform them of the intended drive to garner national support for their case, gather more information and get their consent for this proposed plan of action.

2.       Calling a national meeting of concerned people to discuss the issue and collectively formulate a proposal with a recommendation for a possible solution (provided we have consent from the parents).

3.       Using this proposal in the Court of Appeal on the next court date.

Each and every one of you who has taken the time to read this article now has the responsibility of sharing it to help to build public awareness. We will be inviting the Child Care Board, the teachers’ unions, the Ministry of Education, lawyers and every concerned and enraged citizen of the island to this meeting to assist in the formulation of our recommended alternative solution. Our words will be important, but so too will the visual of our collective will to have this matter addressed differently.

If you would like to be involved with the mobilisation and planning of this meeting, please call or message via WhatsApp (246) 268 7084 or email ahfoundation@yahoo.com.

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Remember, if you are not a part of the solution you are a major part of the problem.

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