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LIVE UPDATES: Government Industrial Schools

LIVE UPDATES: Government Industrial Schools
Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams. (GP)

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Key points and live updates from the March 20, 2021 press conference on the Government Industrial Schools featuring Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams, Ronald Brathwaite, acting principal of Government Industrial Schools and Dr Brian MacLachlan, senior consultant psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Hospital.

Minister Abrahams

  • Minister Abrahams says he called the mother and grandmother of the 14-year-old child in question and apologised for the incident.
  • He is not more annoyed about the taking of the photograph than the confinement of the child, naked in the solitary cells.
  • The incident was the culmination of several years of flawed practice and new protocols must be put in place.
  • Solitary confinement is consistent with normal practice, but after consultation with UNICEF this will be discontinued.
  • It is archaic and unwarranted and “must cease” immediately.
  • Child detention must be seen as a last resort.
  • Children’s advocate Faith Marshall-Harris, UNICEF and Dr Adrian Cummins will be retained to effect changes at the institution.
  • Minister Abrahams says he has full confidence in the staff at GIS.
  • They have a responsibility to the people of Barbados to regain the trust in the institution.
  • He thanked the outgoing board for its support.
  • A new board will be appointed: Rev. Dr Lucille Baird (chair), Dr Carl Ward (deputy chair), Stephanie Chase, Rev Lennox Boyce, Cheryl Moore, Kwame Bradshaw, including the Superintendent of Prisons or his nominee and a sitting magistrate.
  • The new board will be tasked with charting new, progressive policies for the institution.
  • A name change has not been ruled out.
  • New child protection laws are being drafted.
  • Wandering will be removed from the books.
  • There was consultation with Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw and the curriculum at GIS will be revamped.
  • Every single aspect of both the boys’ and girls’ will be looked at.

Acting principal Ronald Brathwaite

  • There are six girls at GIS Barrow, St Lucy.
  • They comprise three each on committal and remand.
  • GIS is a safe place for all children.
  • Numerous boys and girls passed through the school, enhancing their circumstances.
  • They provide CXC for those who have the mental capacity to do so.
  • One person left with three CXCs and is awaiting results from two more.
  • Up to 8 CXCs are offered.
  • Vocational trades and other support services are offered.
  • Sixty per cent of the children have mental health issues, so they rely on the Psychiatric Hospital through the child guidance clinic and occupational therapy.
  • Psychiatrists and social workers form part of the varied staff to help the children.
  • The intake programme covers all of the aspects that affect their stay.
  • From this a student guide is produced to chart their stay.
  • In the past the numbers were higher, but children are being discharged sooner once they are deemed to have completed the programme.