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Child Poverty in The Bahamas

Of the several nations and the many diverse peoples of Central America and the Caribbean, The Bahamas is one of the most beautiful and iconic. Well known for its thriving tourist industry, many U.S. citizens visit this collection of islands on vacation. The Bahamas has continued to rise in GDP and other metrics of quality of life for its citizens due to its successful tourism industry and offshore financing industry. Despite the growth that The Bahamas continues to present, there have been some concerning trends that have threatened this. Specifically, there have been problems and uncontrollable circumstances that the children have had to face. These problems affect the country and its future. Amongst these struggles, external catastrophes hit many of the most vulnerable children hardest, exacerbating child poverty in The Bahamas. This includes Hurricane Dorian in 2018 and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Poverty Rates

The Bahamas’ poverty rate is comparable to some of its Caribbean neighbors. Studies found that 12.5% of the population is living under the poverty line with under $5,000 a year. Many of these households support children. Additionally, children under the age of 14 represent the group with the highest poverty rate in the country.

Without access to resources and basic needs, these children are likely to have trouble maturing. The lack of food, sleep and time for a developing child who poverty affects will directly affect their performance in academics, recreation, social interactions and other aspects of their life.

Blocks in Education

As The Bahamas has grown its economy and infrastructure its education systems have also grown to match. However, there has been an alarming disparity in the quality and access to education. The literacy rate in people over the age of 15 decreased from 98% in 1995 to 93% in 2020. Many have largely attributed this trend to the difference in the quality of education between private and public schools.

Public state-run schools have a graduation rate of 44% for boys and 51% for girls while the graduation rate is 87.6% for those in private institutions. The reason for this variance is the lack of funding and resources for teaching materials, school supplies, and internet access for those in public schools.

Home Situations

The Bahamas has a very low dual household dynamic. More than 50% of all children in The Bahamas are born out of wedlock and a single parent often raises them. This is a holdover from times when large families lived together, so children did not feel the absence of a parent so harshly. However, the commonality of this has faded.

Children that single parents raise, especially those suffering from poverty, have more developmental and material disadvantages in life. The education challenges and dropout rates among the youth of The Bahamas reflect this issue.

Children are the Future of The Bahamas

Help from NGOs and other countries has been stagnant because of the  COVID-19 pandemic and lack of awareness. Project Hope is an organization that has a consistent presence in The Bahamas, although there are no large organizations. However, Project Hope’s work should receive commendation and undergo replication because they have been instrumental in shedding light on the challenges that people in The Bahamas face.

Project Hope is an NGO that focuses primarily on health care needs and services. They have been bringing aid, resources and expertise to The Bahamas. Beginning after Hurricane Dorian, Project Hope has focused on providing health care services for children, including those who experience child poverty in The Bahamas. This helps the children to further their education.

The Bahamas has been in a vicious cycle of struggling children becoming struggling adults. Rather than beautiful beaches or offshore tax evasion, children are at once the most vulnerable and most valuable resource that The Bahamas has.

John J. Lee
Photo: Flickr