Categorized | National News

Ministers Dismiss Union Leader’s Complaints

Two top cabinet ministers have fired back at a union leader for complaining about an ultimatum given to foreign teachers.

On Monday, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson told The Bahama Journal that expatriate teachers are being forced to get fingerprinted or lose their jobs.

According to Mrs. Wilson, the fingerprinting has been happening for two weeks and was an order passed down by the Ministry of Education and enforced by principals.

The BUT president complained that the teachers have to pay a $100 fee to get the fingerprinting done.

But, on Tuesday, Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald brushed off those complaints, stressing that his first and most important responsibility is to ensure the safety and well-being of students and teachers.

Additionally, he said his ministry would not engage non-Bahamians who are not prepared to confirm their identity and be vetted by the police.

“I will not compromise when it comes to protecting our little darlings and making decisions which are in their best interest. All persons who are responsible for our children on school campuses are required to be properly and rigorously vetted by the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Persons employed in public schools are included in a category which receives the most rigorous vetting in the public service for obvious reason,” he said yesterday.

“The only means for the Royal Bahamas Police Force to confirm a non-Bahamian is who they say they are and not an imposter is to fingerprint them. The Royal Bahamas Police Force has indicated that fingerprinting is the only way that they can positively determine whether a non-Bahamian has a criminal past. “

Minister Fitzgerald said this policy is an attempt to ensure that the ministry minimises sexual and other forms of exploitation against children by persons entrusted with their care.

Labour Minister Shane Gibson, during an interview outside of Cabinet yesterday, sided with his colleague.

“A Bahamian [has to be] fingerprinted and a foreigner can’t be fingerprinted? Something ain’t wrong with that? Something’s got to be wrong with anybody who thinks that something’s wrong with a foreigner being fingerprinted and nothing’s wrong with a Bahamian being fingerprinted every time they go for their passport. For you to get a new passport now you must be fingerprinted. And if I have to do it, a person coming to my country who will be interacting with my kids shouldn’t be fingerprinted? Something’s got to be wrong with that,” he said.

Rogan Smith

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