Child rights advocate Marsha Hinds-Myrie is convinced that Government has successfully transferred the problems plaguing the Government Industrial School (GIS) from the Barrows building in St Lucy to the newly-renovated facility at Dodds, St Philip.
Hinds-Myrie , the Co-Director of the child advocacy organisation Operation Safe Space (OSS), has insisted that although the two female wards were moved to join their male counterparts at Dodds, there has been no change to the personnel working with the residents.
“Different location, same operation. We understand that although one of the recommendations coming out of the Williams report was that the staff should be removed and replaced, we are hearing that the staff remains at the institution. There seems to be some complication with securing transfers for them so that new and suitable staff can be brought to the institution. And there is a way in which obviously, if you transfer the staff, you also transfer the problems,”Hinds-Myrie told Barbados TODAY.
Last Tuesday, Minister of Home Affairs and Information Wilfred Abrahams said he was informed by GIS interim principal Catherine Jordan that the females who were relocated in October had settled in well and were adjusting to their new home.
He indicated that Barbadians had been offering to provide various services in areas such as counselling and cooking classes, to help the wards of the GIS.
Following a three-month inquiry into the operations of the GIS, a four-member panel headed by former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Oral Williams, in September recommended a major overhaul of the juvenile detention centre. The report identified several issues, including the need to hire more competent staff, upgrade the facilities, and possibly change the institution’s name.
Abrahams said that while relocating the female wards was Government following through with one of the recommendations made by the panel, the staff assessment is ongoing.
However,Hinds-Myrie said given the history of the GIS, and the reason behind the recent inquiry, it is important that the right people be assigned to work with the children at the institution.
“We understand that the girls have been moved to the facility at St Philip but we also understand that there is still no structured educational programmes, no structured relationship between the Government Industrial School and the Ministry of Education such that these children are receiving the acceptable standard of education as is their right because they are Barbadian children,” she said.
Hinds-Myrie added: “There is a child that we are aware of that was released from the Government Industrial School, during this latest saga, who has received no aftercare or reintegration plan back into the society.”
She charged that the child had nowhere to go.
“She doesn’t even have a Barbadian identification card to access welfare support. Yes, sometimes she bounces between houses, she doesn’t have a shelter. But we have also been told that she is homeless. So the way that we reintegrate these children into society, also remains a problem. It is like nothing has been fixed. It is disappointing.”
The outspoken advocate who has been publicly highlighting some of the issues that plague the institution, said she was also concerned that the two female wards were sent to GIS because they are in need of care and because they ran into conflict with the law.
“We spend our money and we have built a facility, but we still haven’t fixed the problem that we went into the situation with. I remain concerned and I am very disappointed with the way the Government Industrial School matter has been treated,” she said.
When Barbados TODAY contacted Minister Abrahams for a response to
Hinds-Myrie’s claims he declined to offer a comment. (AH)