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Foreign teachers fingerprinted

NATASHA BECKLES, [email protected]

Foreign teachers fingerprinted

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NASSAU – The Bahamas government has defended its policy of fingerprinting foreign teachers saying it is necessary to ensure that people entrusted with the interacting with students do not have a criminal past.
The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) said it was “very concerned” over the practice and that expatriate teachers were being threatened with job losses if they did not conform to the instructions.
The union said that over the past two weeks it had sought unsuccessfully to discuss the matter with the Ministry and Department of Education, Ministry and Department of Labour and the Department of Public Service.
But in a statement, Education Science and Technology, Jerome K. Fitzgerald, defended the policy he would not entail any “compromise when it comes to protecting our ‘little darlings’ and making decisions which are in their best interest.
“I have made it clear on numerous occasions . . .  my first and most important responsibility is to the safety and wellbeing of our students and teachers and also to ensure there is order on the school campuses which promote and encourage excellence.”
He said everyone who is responsible for children on school campuses is 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. The only means for The Royal Bahamas Police Force to confirm that 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-Bahamians has a criminal past,” Fitzgerald said, adding “this policy is an attempt to ensure that we minimize sexual and other forms of exploitation against our children by persons entrusted with their care.
“In the public interest, The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will not engage non Bahamians who are not prepared to confirm their identity and be vetted by the Royal Bahamas Police Force,” Fitzgerald said, urging support from parents, teachers and the wider community “in this effort to protect and ensure the safety of our children”.
But the BUT has warned that it would “not stand idly by and allow any member of our union rights be violated” adding “the government is in violation of its own laws.
“The BUT awaits a public apology to these teachers and all others who have been harassed, victimized, discriminated against and had their jobs threatened,” it added. (CMC)