An official from the state-run Child Care Board (CCB) has been summoned to appear in court in a case brought by the Ministry of Education against the parents of two Rastafarian children for failing to send their charges to school.
The Ministry is accusing the parents of breaching Section 41 Clause (b) of the Education Act Chapter 41 on the grounds that there is absolutely no record of the children — a boy and a girl both under the age of ten — ever attending formal classes.
Both parents have pleaded not guilty to the offences.
However, based on the evidence provided in court today by a school attendance officer from the ministry, neither child could been found on “any school registry in Barbados” as their parents were simply not interested in enrolling them in the public school system or following the home schooling criteria.
Testifying before Acting Chief Magistrate Douglas Frederick, the education officer revealed that the older child had been offered a place in one of the island’s Government schools, but the father had refused on the grounds that there was too much deviance, including bullying, illicit drugs and sexual activity in the education system.
“It was felt that since the parents were opposed to a large crowd institution that they would be willing to allow them to attend a small school setting,” the officer said, explaining that the ministry was willing to create “an Individual Education Programme (IEP). . . to fast track [the child’s] preparation for the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination”.
The officer also said that while it appeared that the mother’s instruction was aiding the children’s development, it was felt that they would further excel if given the opportunity to receive a formal education.
Today, the country’s child protection agency was also accused of failing to adequately respond to the children’s plight.
The school attendance officer said while the ministry had made numerous attempts to get the parents to attend assessment sessions which would facilitate the children’s entry into a school, they never attended. She also reported that though the CCB had been present at a case conference on the matter, it never replied to any of the two formal pieces of communication sent to it by the ministry about the Rastafarian case.
“[It] was referred to the Child Care Board in correspondence dated December 4, 2014 and January 19, 2015. Prior to that, Sir, they would have been aware of the situation . . . because we had invited them to the case conference which they attended . . . [but] they never responded via letter,” the school officer told the magistrate.
The matter was adjourned until September 23 when the CCB official is expected to take the stand.