Too soft!

Child advocate wants harsher fines for not sending children to school

Child rights advocate Faith Marshall-Harris is reigniting debate on the issue of homeschooling, ridiculing the “derisory” $50 fine for parents found guilty of keeping their children away from school and warning of possible abuse and neglect “masquerading as homeschooling”.

Delivering a position paper over the weekend on what should be contained in the laws of Barbados to ensure this country is fully compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the UNICEF Children’s Champion for Barbados strongly objected to parents educating their children at home without permission.

And she derided the fine imposed on those found guilty under the Education Act of not sending their charges to school.

“I believe that there should be increased fines for parents for not sending a child to school. Presently it is compulsory under the Education Act for parents to send a child to school, who is under the age of 16, but the fine for not doing so is a derisory $50. This should be substantially increased,” Marshall-Harris told those gathered at the Frank Collymore Hall for the presentation.

Homeschooling was catapulted into the national spotlight in September after two Rastafarian parents were found guilty of breaching Section 41 Clause (b) of the Education Act, Chapter 41 on the grounds that there was no record of their two children  — a boy and a girl both under the age of 12 — ever attending formal classes.

Charles Ijui Jah Lashley and his partner Kim Isartes Ibre Jackman were later allowed to walk free when Magistrate Douglas Frederick dismissed the case after the prosecution attempted to add dates to the offences on the day the two were due to find out their fate, much to the consternation of the defence attorneys.

The magistrate also said at the time, the parents had not kept the children home “due to any malice”.

Marshall-Harris did not make specific mention of the case, but it was evident that she was referring to it when she spoke of “much emotional heat” being generated about the issue recently, as she made a case for placing children in a classroom environment.

“It was noted that the State was required to ensure that the homeschooling was of a standard that would ensure the best possible educational opportunities for the children in question,” the former magistrate said as she spoke of outcries by some people about a 12-year-old’s demonstrated ability to read, in an attempt to show that he was receiving the proper level of education at home.

“Is that the yardstick to be used? A 12-year-old reading certain prepared passages from a Bible is not necessarily indicative of his having received a well-rounded education,” she stressed.

“Do we not expect more from a 12-year-old? What right do we as parents have to deprive children of a high standard of education, so necessary to provide them with tools to navigate life in the future?”

The child rights advocate was particularly concerned that homeschooling, in some cases, was depriving the children access to the best training and education, along with the necessary recreation, leisure and social programmes.

She explained that while Article 28 of the CRC, to which Barbados is a signatory, places a responsibility on the State to provide children with the best possible education available, it was necessary “for the State to employ extreme vigilance to leave no room for abuse and neglect masquerading as homeschooling.

“There are many fallacies abounding with regard to homeschooling. It seems to me that we must remove some of the emotionalism from it,” the consultant on family law said.

Marshall-Harris made it clear she was not condemning the practise altogether, but questioned whether those who opted to educate their children at home were capable of meeting all the requirements of such a task.

“One is not suggesting that there should never be any homeschooling, but I ask myself whether a child should be forced to accept a sub-standard level of education, and a lack of social interaction because his or her parents have decided to so deprive them,” she said.

The Rastafarian parents’ troubles are not yet over as they continue to face the possibility of having their children taken from them.

The High Court will on December 13 decide whether it will hear a case brought by the Child Care Board, which is seeking to make the children wards of the court.

7 Responses to Too soft!

  1. Hal Austin December 6, 2016 at 7:15 am

    This is nonsense. Homeschooling is right and proper for those parents who think it is best for their children. It is no better or worse than religious education.
    Of course,d it should be monitored by school inspectors and welfare, to make sure the children are not neglected and that they are following an agreed curriculum.
    There is an assumption here that the state knows best. It does not.
    Equally, as to the matter of paternity. As a society we must try and prevent young people from having children like rabbits; on the registration of new borns both parents should be present.
    If mothers refuse to identify fathers at registration they should then be barred by law from naming him (it is usually the father) at a later date. No court-directed DNA tests will meet that requirement.
    Lawyers have an obsession with legalising all our experiences. If parents are not sending their children to school then there must be a problem.
    The right and proper approach is to send a welfare officer to the family home to talk to the parents; anything that then can be done to assist should be offered.
    Stop treating all parents as suspects.

  2. Jennifer December 6, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Why don’t someone advocate for fines and jailing for the child care board officers who fail to act when called and causing the death of a child.

  3. Jennifer December 6, 2016 at 10:38 am

    In a democratic society no one should be forced to sent their child/children to school. If parents think that they are able and willing to home educate their children then they should be allowed to do so. It is the same as a woman being forced to go into a hospital to deliver a baby while she lies on her back instead of using a birthing chair and in her home environment. No other mammal does this. Or a grown weaned person still drinking milk unless you naturally have a vitamin D deficiency like some of our other species do and then convince the population they need milk too when they don’t.
    This wicked system of our oppressors is no good to us as a people. It only produces more slaves, gays, etc. What we need is more black private schools with a business agenda and a change of the current curriculum to lift our people like it was in Tulsa Oklahoma of black wall street. you people are so lost it is a phenomenon. Education cannot be the best if at the end of your journey you still don’t know who you are as a people.

  4. Sue Donym December 6, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Mrs Marshall-Harris makes some valid points. Home schooling should not be used as an excuse for the lazy or ignorant, nor for a parent who might misguidedly use their child as a pawn in a showdown for leverage or spite. Clearly, if the law recognizes home schooling, then the state is duty bound to put regulatory, oversight and assessment mechanisms in place – in the interest of its child citizens.

    I believe the assumption in favour of mandatory schooling would be the demonstrated benefits of socialisation and preparation to be self reliant if not self sufficient. Should we not also assume that if there was a significant sentiment against mandatory schooling, a majority would seek a change in the law?

    There seems to be a belief that state delivered schooling means that one can learn only what is offered in that environment. On the contrary, learners can be encouraged to be readers and researchers as well as thinkers. The possibilities are almost unlimited and education does not have to begin and end within the school walls.

    Is @Hal Austin really serious or somewhat unaware of the many reasons that a father might not be named at the time of registration? In real life it could be anything from rape or incest to simply not knowing – not that it is encouraged, simply fact. Court ordered testing can also work to rule out the mistakenly or maliciously named ‘father’.

  5. helicopter(8P) December 6, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Pretty good practice for Barbados prior to 1733 AD. Can these parents teach their children the appropriate math, chemistry, physics and applied sciences to advance them into a universal education?

  6. Brenda Daniel December 6, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Home schooling is severely limited to the knowledge of the parent(s). Although it may seem satisfactory at the primary level, it restricts the child from the wide range of subject choices offered in our secondary schools. How many languages do the parents speak? Can chemistry, physics laboratories be accommodated in the home? Can the parent teach screen printing, batik, lino printing and all the other art forms? The child will not benefit from the questions and discussions in a classroom environment. I could go on and on but the lack of interaction with their peers and a variety of adults is an injustice to the development of the child. It shelters the child from the positive and negative issues in the real world. Consequently they are severely restricted in their social development and are exposed to surprises they cannot handle in later life.

  7. Chenelle Lovell Phillips December 7, 2016 at 8:52 am

    It appears that some people have a very limited interpretation of homeschooling. A child can be homeschooled and given opportunities for social interaction, they can be exposed to educators and peers in a wide variety of subject areas and can have more experiential education opportunities than are available at many institutions on the island. And yes some parents are indeed more qualified and capable of instructing their children than some teachers.
    The point here should not be to attack one’s right to homeschool their children but to devise age-specific markers to enable the assessment of the quality of teaching administered in all environments. A standard which is to be upheld not just at home, but in classrooms across the island.


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