Not so fast Mr. Minister Abrahams!

Submitted by Women in Action –

21st September, 2022
Press Release

In acknowledging the presentation of the findings coming out of the departmental enquiry at the Government Industrial School (GIS), Women in Action Network (WiAN) is calling on the Minster to slow down and get it right or resign.

The report shared with the public was slathered with recommendations covering up the issues for which the Minister needs to hold persons accountable. The recommendations represent the standard operations for which we have been advocating so no applause is needed for the announcement of their intention to come up to the expected standard. It is overdue and expected. The Minister needs to get to the finer points of what has been the impact of having unqualified, untrained, uncaring square pegs in round holes supervising troubled girls over a number of years. He must be ready to take responsibility for the damages cause by the actions of the staff he promised to back and start talking compensation packages. Girls who have been psychologically tortured to the point of suicide and girls who were physically assaulted are now scarred!

If we take out the segment on the recommendations from the report we have been told very little about the findings. We are told the findings cannot be discussed because of a likelihood of matters going before the courts. So, should we expect charges to be laid? In one iteration we heard of “one or two cases of physical abuse”; is it one case or two cases? And then in another iteration mention was made of “a few cases”; how many cases of physical abuse were found? There were no cases of sexual misconduct? Have any staff members been implicated in these cases? Of the allegations investigated, how many were made by wards and how many by staff members? When will we know from the Commissioner of Police if any charges will be laid out of the evidence presented in the report? These are the questions the Minister needs to answer. Running to a new building, with new staff and an operations manual does not make these questions go away.

Having admitted that the Ministry failed to ensure that rehabilitative care was delivered by qualified and trained personnel, compensation is due to the wards whom the government imprisoned and neglected. The damage caused can add to the instability of society over the lifetimes of traumatised girls-turned-women, and the resources the government would have to put out in the future to stabilize such a person could be better paid now at this point of the girls receiving the rehabilitative care that they need. The allegations of abuse need to be taken in the context of how unqualified and untrained staff would deal with teenage girls who
have been already living with a range of issues.

There are still critical areas to be addressed: is it the advice of the experts to house the girls in the facility at Dodds that currently houses the boys? Housing girls and boys with raging adolescent hormones in the same facility is a recipe for disaster. Whether it is girls in need of care or girls with a criminal leaning, these girls need not be living in the same space as teenage boys at a time when they are already easily distracted. Decisions like these leave us to wonder if the Minister understands and cares about how these young people function.

What are the implications of dealing with vulnerable children who are found astray from their homes ‘wandering’? Removing the wandering law does not address the problem of children not being guided, supervised and cared for in the home; it prevents them from being incarcerated because of their parents’ shortcomings. When such children are found on the streets where will these children be taken? Who will deliver the care needed to them? Such children need
to be directed to a facility where they can be cared for and uplifted. WiAN is unwavering in its call for the removal of the entire Advisory Board who so ably conducted an internal investigation last year that found there was no
wrong doing at the institution. Who is correct? The Board findings or the Minister’s findings? The Chairman and her Board are guilty of neglect, incompetence and failing to give advice for the protection of the wards of GIS. To even suggest that a care institution for girls be renamed “Secure Residential Facility” indicates a lack of focus on what matters.

Minister Wilfred Abrahams, the Board, the entire staff of GIS and the Permanent Secretary need to resign to bring this era of the Government Industrial School to an end.

Dodds Accused of Failing ‘Deviants’

The blogmaster congratulates Voice of Barbados for keeping the issue of a dysfunctional Government Industrial School (GIS) in the public eye. Barbadians are known for having short memories. The outrage expressed by callers and panelists on the ‘Return to Dodds‘ show hosted by veteran journalist David Ellis is merited although it maybe a case of appeasement for the sake of satisfying good conscience. The injustices meted out to residents of GIS and before the name change has been bandied about in the public domain for decades. Then again the residents of GIS are from the bottom socioeconomic bracket, NTSH.

What is happening at the GIS is reflective of a decadence and lackadaisical way to addressing problems prevalent in society- outdated laws, redundant systems and most of all a lack of leadership. It exposes the inability of our people to efficiently manage our affairs given a significant investment in formal education post-independence.

Where is the conscience of a people who for decades look the other way when young people suffering from behavioural challenges are treated inhumanely at Dodds?

Listen for yourself.

Don’t Mess with Our Children

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (friendly version) states at number 19 heading among other others of equal importance that:

Protection from Violence – Governments must protect children from violence, abuse and being neglected by anyone who looks after them.

UN Convention on the rights of the child

In recent days Barbadians have been expressing outrage in response to the report of a teenager at the Government Industrial School (GIS) recorded naked in solitary confinement. The blogmaster is acutely aware the danger of blogging about matters involving children given the inclination by some in Internet fora to be irresponsible.

Troubling to the blogmaster is the breach of the rights of the teenager occurred while under the care of government. It is not lost on the blogmaster that in other jurisdictions persons charged with the responsibility of managing the GIS would have tendered resignations forthwith.

There is no need for the blogmaster to be prolix sharing thoughts on the heinous act that has occurred at the GIS. It should never have happened. Successive governments by mediocre decision-making are responsible. Adults whether employed at the GIS or parents are responsible. The country is responsible for protecting our children. Faith Marshall-Harris is correct when she reminds us that adults have a moral and LEGAL duty to report incidents of child abuse to the authorities- even if the abuse occurred at a government institution responsible for enforcing the very rights of children.

The blogmaster congratulates children advocates who champion the rights of children every day, every week and all the time. Blogs have been posted over the years (not enough) to expose challenges children face in the country. The number of comments these types of blogs garner is always an indication of the level of public interest in these types of matters. Then there is a predictable reaction when the matter currently provoking rage occurs. We are reactive to the inevitable.

The following related links were posted on Barbados Underground in 2017 to support a similar matter.

We do not place enough importance on little problems until there is a crisis situation.

The blogmaster refuses to consider the problems were not being highlighted to the management of the GIS and at other similar institutions over time.

The blogmaster refuses to consider the problems were not being highlighted to the Board of the GIS and at other similar institutions over time.

The blogmaster refuses to consider that the problems were not being highlighted to the minister responsibly for the GIS and at other similar institutions over time.

The blogmaster refuses to consider that the problems were not being highlighted to the general population by current and former employees of the GIS and other over time.

When we make the logical conclusion what does it translate to?