Education in the Bahamas

The quality of education in the Bahamas has been improving since the late 1950s. These improvements have been spurred on by leaders of the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), which has recognized the failures of the previous education system.

The Education Act, which was revised in 1996, is the primary education law governing the Bahamas today. It guarantees free education for all residents between five and 16 years of age. About 75% of children attend public primary schools, but most nurseries and pre-schools are run by churches. There are 170 educational institutions in the Bahamas, which is a great number considering the population of the archipelago. In 2014, the Bahamas introduced the National High School Diploma, to create a standard for minimum basic education for every child. This was a big step in improving the education system by ensuring equal education for all children.

In the nation, over 100% of children received primary education in 2006 and this trend has been continuing into the present. This is a very impressive rate, especially given that there is no disparity between access to education between boys and girls. In 2003, the literacy rate for adults ages 15 and over was 95.5%. This percentage was even higher for young adults aged 15 to 24. Most of the population in the Bahamas is under 60 years old, meaning that the education system in the country has been relatively successful in having literate citizens since the 1960s.

A few years ago, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology gave a statement about recognizing the need for a larger skilled workforce. The government invested $4 million in Information and Communications Technology in public schools to better prepare students for a technologically advancing world. Career Academies were implemented in high schools to allow students to gain specific skills for the job market. These skills include hospitality management and business studies, which should help them get jobs in the Bahamian tourism industry.

The Minister also indicated that the Bahamas would focus on developing better quality teachers. An In-Service Professional Development Institute was opened to provide standardized and more effective training for teachers and other educators in the country. These programs are still in development but have proven to be valuable steps forward for the nation.

Ultimately, education in the Bahamas is on the right track, as the government is prioritizing high-quality education for all. They should continue to implement new and improved programs, as well as start focusing on increasing the number of residents who have access to, and attend, higher education institutions. With these current programs and a steady plan for improvement in the future, the Bahamas can surely create an excellent education system for it citizens.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in the BahamasUpon mention of its name, this Caribbean nation evokes thoughts of picturesque sandy beaches with luxury resorts lining the coast. These images are not inaccurate, however they fail to capture the full scope of life in the Bahamas.

Consider that the Bahamian government has set the poverty line at $4,247 of yearly family income. This number places 13 percent of Bahamians in the category of “poor.” The reality of this situation is that even those who aren’t below the poverty line face harsh living conditions, as the cost of living continues to rise. Minimum wage in the Bahamas amounts to $210 per week, or $10,920 per year, which is still not enough for most Bahamians to support themselves and their families.

So, what are the causes of poverty in the Bahamas? What conditions in the Bahamas are preventing the growth of a strong working middle class?

One answer to these questions is tourism. Already, 49 percent of the country’s citizens are employed by the tourism industry. However, the critical flaw in this system is that a majority of the jobs available to young Bahamians within the tourism industry are unskilled labor. These jobs, for the most part, pay minimum wage and don’t provide young Bahamians with the opportunity to generate significant savings.

Lack of livable wages consequently results in many Bahamians facing household food shortages. As a response to this issue, in 2008, a group of Bahamian students joined together to create Hands for Hunger, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending hunger in the Bahamas. This group looks to communities within the Bahamas and asks them to contribute their efforts towards feeding the hungry. Hands for Hunger works with local restaurants, farms, hotels and anyone else capable of lending a helping hand by donating food or resources. To date, Hands for Hunger has facilitated the donation of one million pounds of fresh food to Bahamians in need.

Looking even deeper, poverty in the Bahamas is also affected by the educational system. Underfunded school systems perpetuate a system of education which lags greatly behind the rest of the developed world. The national exam system used to evaluate Bahamian secondary school students is known as the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE). With students receiving a disappointing average grade of D on from the BGCSE’s introduction in 1993, the Bahamian education system is producing young adults who cannot become employed due to a system that has failed them. Access to proper education is a vital necessity for the growth of a strong generation of young leaders.

Due to multiple factors which can be seen as causes of poverty in the Bahamas,the island nation’s people are looking to the international community for support now more than ever.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in the BahamasThe Bahamas is a chain of islands located in the northern Atlantic Ocean with great historical significance. The islands first became a British colony in 1783, slightly over a century after British settlement of the islands began. The Bahamas gained its independence in the late 20th century. Since that time, the Bahamas has thrived thanks to a few very fruitful industries such as tourism. The nearly 330,000 people who populate the Bahamas are ruled by a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

One blemish on this nation’s record is its substandard record on human rights, particularly in the areas of immigrants and prison and detention center conditions.

The 2015 United States Department of State’s report on human rights in the Bahamas concluded that several different types of human rights problems do in fact exist.

The report states that poor treatment of irregular migrants exacerbated by issues in processing them is an issue needing attention. Haitian immigrants to the region, for example, have been detained by Bahamian authorities and kept in custody until proper arrangements were made for them to exit the country or legally stay.

The Bahamian and Haitian governments have taken measures to alleviate the problem, but their solution has brought its own problems with it. The Bahamian government required that non-Bahamian citizens must carry legal documents with them beginning in the fall of 2014. However, outcry poured in from certain international organizations that enforcement of this law was applied unfairly to those of Haitian descent, along with several other complaints. Perhaps the most disturbing accusation of the abuse of human rights in the Bahamas came in the form of reports claiming that “immigration officials physically abused persons as they were being detained and that officials solicited and accepted bribes to avoid detention or secure release,” according to the State Department’s report.

To make matters even worse, the places where these people are being held is substandard. Prison and detention centers did not meet international standards, and overcrowding is a major issue at the government’s only prison.

This data suggests that human rights in the Bahamas are not as well protected as they need to be. In the future, more work must be done by the local and international communities to ensure the better enforcement of human rights in the Bahamas.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Google

Bahamas Poverty Rate
The Bahamas is known for its natural beauty which attracts visitors from all over the world. Despite its vibrant tourism industry, this small tropical island faces a persistent battle against poverty. There are many important causes, implications and possible solutions to the economic difficulties faced by Bahamians. Here are some interesting facts about the Bahamas’ poverty rate:

  1. As of 2017, 14.8% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. Not only is this higher than the average global poverty rate, but the number of people living in poverty continues to increase. Currently, it has grown by two percent since 2014.
  2. Immigration has a great impact on the Bahamas’ poverty rate. In fact, the majority of impoverished citizens are actually from Haiti. As of 2015, Haitians comprised about 7.48% of the population of the Bahamas, with 37.69% of these immigrants living in poverty. This statistic is primarily due to economic turmoil in Haiti, which forces many citizens to seek new opportunities in the Bahamas. This turmoil has created a higher demand for jobs and increased the amount of money the Bahamian government spends on preventing illegal immigration.
  3. The Bahamas’ poverty rate is mainly attributed to the country’s high level of unemployment. Currently, a shocking 14.4% of its citizens are unemployed, which is significantly greater than the 4.3% unemployment rate in the United States.
  4. This high rate of unemployment and subsequent poverty is often attributed to a lack of economic diversity in the Bahamas. Sixty percent of the country’s GDP stems from tourism, an industry that has weakened over recent years due to political turmoil, economic instability and high crime rates in the region.
  5. Another factor contributing to the Bahamas’ poverty rate is climate change. As weather patterns become more turbulent in the Bahamas, natural disasters continue to create a considerable economic strain on the country. This increase in harsh weather leaves citizens without property and resources. Combined with poor infrastructure, the growing intensity of flooding and tropical storms has forced the government to raise spending on disaster relief.

Despite these significant economic strains, strategic government planning and aid from foreign countries have the chance to positively impact the Bahamas’ poverty rate. In fact, in July 2017, the non-profit Organization for Responsible Governance created “Vision 2040,” a new plan for national development in the country.

In a similar fashion to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, this plan urges the government to address issues such as poor strategic planning, lack of financial accountability and country’s one-sector economy.

Julia Morrison

Photo: Flickr

The Bahamas isn’t just full of vacationers lounging in the sun or carefree islanders living a life of luxury. The country known for sandy beaches and tropical excursions can’t escape the universal problem of hunger. Trying to understand persistent hunger the Bahamas is complicated.

More than 20,000 Bahamians are undernourished, meaning they don’t eat enough to maintain their health and stave off hunger. What follows is an explanation of the various factors contributing to the country’s food insecurity and what’s being done about it.

Here are four things to know about hunger in the Bahamas:

  1. The country’s climate and geography are largely to blame. Only around 1.5 percent of the land is suitable for agriculture. The country consists of several islands made mostly of limestone rock, which, unlike other types of bedrock, does not form soil when it weathers. The soil that does exist is of little agricultural value and requires expensive machines to prepare for farming.Fertilizers further prepare the land for crops, and pesticides, fungicides and other materials must be imported to maximize yields. Adding destructive natural disasters and a harsh climate to the mix makes the farming outlook worse. Around 3 percent of Bahamian workers make their living through agriculture, and the farming industry contributes around 2 percent of the country’s total GDP.
  2. Rising food prices make hunger worse. To compensate for the Bahamas’ lack of agricultural resources, it imports more than a billion dollars worth of food, a third of the country’s $3 billion trade deficit. The imported food is sometimes processed and often unhealthy, but the there is little choice. Food prices in the Bahamas fluctuate based on conditions in exporting countries.A study from the University of The Bahamas found that prices of essential food items, like sugar, grits and cheese, have substantially increased since 2014, in one case by as much as 282 percent. Without money to pay for food, thousands of Bahamians eat less and go hungry. The money that is spent on imported food isn’t staying in the country. Most of the revenue goes to foreign sellers, leaving the Bahamas in a cycle of food dependency, aggravated by a lack of funds to support Bahamian farmers and agribusiness.
  3. High unemployment contributes to food insecurity. The unemployment rate is 14 percent, and among youth it is around 30 percent. Lacking sufficient incomes makes Bahamians vulnerable to food insecurity, as does living in poverty. One in eight Bahamians is impoverished, causing families to make sacrifices as far as what, if anything, goes on the dinner table.
  4. There is hope. Despite large-scale hunger in the Bahamas, the number of people without access to food is falling. The undernourishment rate is 5.6 percent, far lower than in other Caribbean nations. The archipelago is on its way to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating hunger. World leaders have vowed to take on the eight goals as a way to eradicate extreme poverty and improve the lives of millions, if not billions.

To address hunger in the Bahamas, nonprofits are helping bridge the gap from shelf to stomach. One organization, Hands for Hunger, collects edible food from restaurants, stores, hotels and more to give to people who need it. Since 2008, the group has reallocated more than one million pounds of surplus food.

Bahamians are learning that investing in domestic farmers moves the country closer to food security. Supporting local agricultural workers through grants, easier land acquisition and small-business initiatives are all ways to give Bahamian farmers a better chance against international competition.

Experts have determined more efficient ways of farming on little land and poor soil. Hydroponics, for example, is a method of growing crops that requires no soil and less water than traditional methods. Companies that provide hydroponic systems are already serving the Bahamas. Another soilless option, aquaponics systems, are set up next to fisheries to grow vegetables. Aquaponics would help reduce the country’s trade deficit, as well help produce fish for a country that loves seafood.

Inefficient agricultural land and dependency on exporting nations constrain the Bahamas. But despite that, scientists, leaders and nonprofits are determined to eliminate hunger in the Bahamas.

Kristen Reesor

Photo: Flickr

The Organization of American States (OAS) in the Bahamas is a catalyst for the country’s development and offers many programs and activities that contribute to poverty reduction in the country.

The OAS has specifically focused on preserving the heritage of the Bahamas through the revitalization of the downtown area of capital Nassau and preserving the country’s historic sites while promoting local artisanship.

The organization is also focused on security for the Bahamas and facilitated strengthening the capacity of law enforcement and prosecutors in the Bahamas as well as the Caribbean. Security has always been a very important mandate for the organization and important to the role that the OAS plays in poverty reduction in the Bahamas.

The OAS has specifically worked along with the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of education, science and technology to offer fellowships and scholarships while empowering Bahamians and reducing poverty.

As of recently, the OAS has been working on partnering with the University of the Bahamas to reduce poverty through education, while expanding its role in poverty reduction in the Bahamas and the country’s further development.

The OAS has been very vocal about the low level of Bahamian participation in the scholarship opportunities by Bahamians. In 2013 alone, many scholarships were made available that Bahamians were not made aware of or did not participate. These scholarships give Bahamians access to financing and promote the organization’s role in poverty reduction in the Bahamas.

Jerome Fitzgerald, the minister of education, science and technology stated, “We have been given a world-class education. We, therefore, are mandated and required as leaders in education and policymakers to ensure that we afford all of our citizens the same opportunities for success.”The

The OAS promotes education as the key to poverty reduction in the Bahamas. Through organizations like this, poverty reduction in the Bahamas is hopeful.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

 Diseases in the Bahamas
The top diseases in the Bahamas are hypertensive disease, ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. These diseases account for the high mortality rates in the country and affect the overall health of Bahamians.

  1. Hypertension was the leading cause of death for Bahamians in 2011 resulting in 215 deaths, which is a decrease in the number of deaths from 2008, which stood at 993. Hypertension preventative measures have been implemented in the Bahamas and a national campaign was launched in 2013 promoting good habits for controlling blood pressure.
  2. Ischemic heart disease, or coronary heart disease, has been considered one of the top diseases in the Bahamas and resulted in 180 deaths in 2011. The country’s department of statistics has reported that more than 24 percent of all deaths in the Bahamas are directly related to heart disease.

  3. Cerebrovascular diseases accounted for 130 deaths and have been another of the top diseases in the Bahamas, especially among women. Cerebrovascular diseases are considered more life-threatening, even though hypertensive diseases are the number one cause of death.

  4. HIV/AIDS has been prevalent in the Bahamas and ranks fifth on the list of top diseases in the Bahamas with a mortality of 121 deaths, according to a 2011 report by the Bahamas government. This is considered an epidemic, and there is currently no cure. The Bahamas, along with its AIDS Secretariat, is working vigorously to promote preventative measures and proper health measures for those living with this disease. Recently, the Linkages Project in conjunction with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun the groundwork of linking across the Continuum of HIV Services for Key Populations Affected by HIV project. This project is aimed at accelerating the ability of partner governments, key population-led civil society organizations and private-sector providers to plan, deliver and optimize comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment services to reduce HIV transmission among key populations and help those living with the disease to live longer.

  5. Diabetes, another top disease in the Bahamas, affects 34,900 Bahamians and can lead to death, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The mortality of this disease in 2011 was 86 deaths per year. Diabetes can lead to other complications and result in similar symptoms to the other top diseases in the Bahamas.

These diseases all have a major impact on the health of the Bahamian people, and health providers continue to promote healthy lifestyles and to lobby for affordable, all-inclusive national health plans to combat their impact.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Bahamas Refugees
The Bahamas is an archipelago of over seven hundred islands and keys. It is nestled in the Caribbean with close proximity to the U.S. and has a populous of 319,000, as recorded by the United Nations in 2005.

The country has always been plagued with refugees and asylum seekers. Recently, there has been a change in immigration policies by the current governing administration, the Progressive Liberal Party. It has received much scrutiny and gotten backlash from international organizations inclusive of Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

To understand the Bahamas’ position and the state of refugees, here are 10 facts about Bahamas refugees:

  1. According to the World Bank, refugee by country or territory of asylum in the Bahamas was last measured at 13 in 2014.
  2. Individuals who have applied for asylum or refugee status and are awaiting a decision or registered as asylum seekers — are excluded.
  3. The percentage of tertiary educated immigrants or refugees to the Bahamas has significantly decreased to zero, signifying the country’s undesirable conditions.
  4. It is estimated that at least 100 refugees are residing in the Bahamas as of 2000 according to U.N. reports.
  5. The Bahamas government prefers repatriation of immigrants, and in 2015 the government spent $83,000 repatriating illegal immigrants as opposed to granting asylum to refugees.
  6. The process to seek asylum or refugee status in the Bahamas has been exposed as corrupt, unfair and unfavorable to applicants seeking political protection.
  7. Refugees experience discrimination, both subtle and overt, on a widespread scale.
  8. Refugees and asylum seekers are detained at a facility called the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in adverse conditions.
  9. Refugees and asylum seekers are subject to cruel treatment if detained in the Bahamas.
  10. The Bahamas receives no assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development for refugee and migration or other food aid programs.

With proper policy reform, training and understanding of human rights, as well as taking preliminary measures to establish a fair asylum process to regulate more efficiently situation with the Bahamas refugees, the country will be on the right path to compliance with international human rights law and eligible for aid.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality
New Providence, the most populated island in the Bahamas, uses about 11 million gallons of groundwater a day.

The Bahamas has been unable to meet the demands of the 11 million gallons of groundwater since the mid-1970s. This led to the emergence of barging water from North Andros due to strict rationing.

Rising sea levels are expected over the next several decades. This may create wetlands, which are freshwater resources that would provide the country’s means of water quality and survival. The method of desalting sea water by means of reverse osmosis is used to maintain a level of water quality in the Bahamas today. This suggests that water does not currently come from a supply of clean, fresh water sources.

The country is vulnerable to compromised freshwater from storm surges, which cause saltwater inundation in aquifers in many cases and threatens the country’s water quality.

A major concern of the water quality in the Bahamas is the proliferation of private shallow water wells, including domestic and hotel wells. Dangerous elements such as nitrates, pathogens and other substances compromise the groundwater quality when these wells are developed due to on-site sanitation. As a result, Bahamians are at great risk to contamination.

Water quality in the Bahamas is not up to standard, due to critical sanitary problems in the country. The main sources of the water contamination are from septic tanks, soakaways and pit latrines. These issues are all major risks to water quality in the Bahamas and the overall health of its citizens.

Due to over-abstraction, physical disturbance, point source pollution, solid waste disposal, disposal wells and septic tanks, the water quality in the Bahamas is threatened. The majority of Bahamians are encouraged to use bottled water, even though the Water & Sewerage Corporation practices desalination by reverse osmosis and the water satisfies both the World Health Organization and U.K. guidelines for chemical, physical and biological parameters.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Bahamas National Feeding Network
The Bahamas National Feeding Network (BNFN) and AML Foods Limited have collaborated to award 60 single mothers with $100 gift vouchers for the purchase of staples, ground produce and other food items. This initiative is one of their many attempts to expunge hunger among local Bahamians.

Selection Process and Statistics

In 2013, the Commonwealth Government of the Bahamas, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Department of Statistics conducted a household outlay revealing 12.5% of the population in the Bahamas lives in poverty conditions. The poverty rate is significantly higher in the Family Islands at 17.2% and New Providence at 12.4%.

The women were selected by community leaders who believed that they would be suitable beneficiaries of the Bahamas National Feeding Network Initiative. These women are faced with the economic hardship of single parenthood.

AML Foods Limited recognizes this concern and drives the impetus to help eradicate hunger. “We at AML Foods Limited feel strongly about hunger prevention and healthy living,” said Renea Bastian, Vice President of Marketing & Communications of AML.

What is the BNFN?

The Bahamas National Feeding Network is a non-profit group that consists of 13 individual organizations who have decided to tackle the hunger crisis evident among the archipelago of islands. The Feeding Network started in 2013 and has been in operation for the past three years. The main function of the organization is to collect and distribute food items to the indigent living among the Bahamian enclave.

AML foods have committed to donating 100,000 over the next three years towards eradicating hunger in Grand Bahamas. The company has contributed over $30,000 in food coupons through the BNFN. The BNFN has donated more than $350,000 to its web of 110 partners in its three years of operation.

The Bahamas National Feeding Network also provides the foundation for self-empowerment and independence in a sustainable way for poor families. “While we are giving, we are also teaching people to grow,” said diplomat, businessman and philanthropist Frank Crothers, Bahamas Feeding Network Chairman.

More on the Ground

The BFN has also played an integral role in the funding of the Bahamas Children’s Emergency Hostel presenting a $1,000 donation. The temporary childcare facility relies primarily on donations for maintenance and daily functioning such as providing food, supplements, clothes and healthcare for children who have been abandoned or neglected.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr