What is the Bahamas without the Family Islands?
I want to respond to some of the things that the Acting Director of Education said about the proposed amalgamation of Cat Island schools. He stated that the Ministry would be able to post more teachers in Cat Island if the enrollment of students in Cat Island would be bigger and located at one central school.This proposal has clearly come from individuals who have not spent time on Cat Island.
The proposed amalgamation which is to have all students attend Old Bight High will require students from the North to spend a minimum of four hours a day commuting by bus. Not only does this severely impact the quality of education for the current students, it will prohibit student’s participation in extracurricular activities.
Expecting students to commute long hours to school will negatively impact the students performance and minimise critical family time and the learning that takes place at home. It’s not acceptable, and furthermore as we are living in 2018 it is not necessary. The use of technology, can one, reduce the number of teachers required to be physically posted to Cat Island, and two, could afford the students a greater educational experience.
Closing the Arthur’s Town High School will kill Northern Cat Island. What is a community without a school? Who will be the future of this community? How can we be expected to build our community, and increase our population if we lack the most basic infrastructure such as a school.
It’s a tough time to be living in Cat Island. In addition to all of the problems that we have with our schools we also have other issues. The island does not have a morgue, we do not have proper clinic facilities, nor do we have a fire truck or properly paved roads.
What does this mean for Cat Island? It means that when people die they are put in buckets of ice until the undertaker comes from Nassau. When there is a medical emergency on island people have to drive an hour and half if not more before they can get to a plane to fly them off of the island.
We used to have a morgue, but it was destroyed when all the clinics on the island were bulldozed because we were promised new and better clinics. Years later the nurses operate out of an old house, which they have turned into a clinic. To this date we are awaiting our new clinics and morgue. There is also no functioning dock that allows for a mailboat to dock in the north of the island.
The first response to our problems from many is that it is simple economics. Supply and demand, if the population isn’t there how does the government justify investing in the community.
As a resident of Cat Island and a voice from the Family Islands I would like to make it clear that we are all Bahamians, the Bahamas does not just encompass New Providence. Yes, managing this country is expensive and complex and it is exactly because of this that we need our leaders to be innovative, creative, and committed to identifying solutions to these complex issues.
It’s time that we stimulate the economies of our family islands without selling our souls and our precious resources. The solution to the problems in each family island cannot be to close everything down. We can and we must do better.
A sign of a developed nation is their ability to invest in infrastructure. How do we attract investment in our family islands if we lack basic infrastructure like a school?
We absolutely need to invest in our Family Islands. When you think about the future of The Bahamas, is it a future where the entire population of the country lives in New Providence? With the current levels of crime and overpopulation of New Providence do we expect everyone from the Family Islands to move to the city? Where is our vision?
We need leaders who are visionaries who are planning for the future development of our country. This trend of impulsively and recklessly reacting to problems needs to stop. As a community we are like so many other family islands, members of Cat Island came together to form a committee that is trying to bring National attention to the challenges facing our country, in addition to working within our capacity to solve the problems that we are faced with.
The government needs to be more responsive to the needs of family island communities. One way that this can be achieved is for the community to have direct collaboration with ministries responsible for infrastructure on our islands. What we want is our government to invest in us and to work with us to identify realistic solutions to our problems.
As Bahamians we must be committed to nation building and that means investing in our country. The Bahamas is not just New Providence. We are a Family of Islands. Every Family Island represents unique cultures, lifestyles, economies, and heritage that are critical to the essence of what it means to be Bahamian. We cannot afford to further disenfranchise our Family Islands.
It is no longer good enough for us to say, well there aren’t enough people on the islands and therefore that island doesn’t deserve the investment. We have to change our way of thinking. How can we encourage young families to move to the Family Islands if there is no infrastructure? How can we build sustainable economies in our family islands that ultimately improves the entire country, if we refuse to invest in our Family Islands. We need to encourage young Bahamians like myself to move to and invest in our Family Islands?
We are one country and the success of each individual island is ultimately the success of our country as a whole. I am urging every Bahamian to stand in solidarity with the Family Islands. We deserve better, the future residents of family islands deserve better. So I ask you, what is the Bahamas without the Family Islands? Can we afford to let Family Island communities deteriorate? I believe that we absolutely cannot afford to let Family Island Communities deteriorate and that as a country we must proactively work towards addressing these critical national issues.
Nikita Shiel-Rolle, MSc