We have pigs in The Bahamas, the most famous are the pigs that live at Big Majors in the Exuma Cays. It baffles me that these pigs have become an attraction that we celebrate and are featured in advertisements that promote The Bahamas. (To be honest, I often wonder about the potential environmental impact of those pigs. Studies show that pigs on islands threaten the native, near extinct or endemic (meaning only found in The Bahamas) plants, seabirds, lizards or snakes that cohabit the island.)) HOWEVER, today I am going to focus on the three little pigs.
I will agree it is rather picturesque and a bit bizarre to see pigs in our crystal clear waters. But I can’t help but think, as we develop our great country, are we following along the path of the naive pig, or the cheap pig. Are our current actions because we are naive and don’t know any better? As a result, will the Big Bad Wolf eat us? Or is it that we are just cheap and don’t want to make the long term investments required to build a solid foundation that will protect us from the huffs and the puffs?
Ms. Pig was a super smart swine. Not only did she ensure that her house was built on a solid foundation out of material that would withstand the greatest huffs and puffs, but she also had a back up plan. As I sit at my desk and I think about The Bahamas I don’t think we are in a position to withstand the huffs and the puffs.
It is important to give credit where credit is due and managing The Bahamas is a task. The Government of The Bahamas is responsible for managing 30 inhabited islands spread across a 1,200-kilometer archipelago. Our geography makes it challenging. If you want to go to some of the southern islands there are only two flights a week! Logistically, managing The Bahamas is expensive and complex.
Because of this we need a plan, a wolf proof plan. I think it is important to acknowledge the realities that exist in The Bahamas. We can’t side step the truth and be afraid of our dirty laundry. What we have to do is acknowledge that as a country we have serious challenges and we need to start doing our laundry.
We need to plan for a Bahamas that has a population of greater than half a million people. We need to be able to make tuff but proactive decisions. We need to strategically think about how sea level rise will impact us. Exploring the economics of natural disasters is a must. What we really need to do is to stop filling in wetlands, but I will leave that dialogue for another day. The reality is that we need to think about how we manage our waste and our natural resources. Those famous pigs wouldn’t be so famous if they were in dark murky water. It’s our crystal clear waters that give them their fame.
When the graduation rate in the public school systems has been roughly 50% for the past 15 years we have a problem. Reflecting on the words of the Minister of Education when he stated that "as a country we have failed to implement meaningful reforms to improve decades of dismal [education] performance that now threaten…a ‘social disaster,’” it makes me question what do we do to circumvent this disaster. What are the abled bodied Bahamian Citizen going to do?
Seven years ago I started Young Marine Explorers (YME), a non-profit organization that has a mission to educate and inspire youth to become the leaders needed to address the social, economic and environmental challenges of The Bahamas. I have a long term goal that by 2025 at least 10%, approximately 4,000 Bahamian public secondary school students will be enrolled in YME.
YME inspires academic excellence and fosters behavioural change that will translate into sustainable lifestyle choices. YME takes a non-traditionally Bahamian approach to education through student centered learning with activities, games, drama, art, and field exploration, all focused on the Bahamian environment. The YME three-year curriculum has been designed to correspond with learning objectives from the Ministry of Education. It is anticipated that successful YME graduates will demonstrate:
- Improved performance on the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education exams,
- Improved understanding of Bahamian laws and regulations,
- Appreciation of the value of volunteerism,
- Improved problem solving skills,
- Improved professional skills for the workforce, and
- Willingness to become environmentally aware citizens who remain actively involved in citizen science projects designed to monitor, protect and restore Bahamian biodiversity.
Taking advantage of the power of technology, YME graduates who are selected to participate in our two-year internship will be enrolled in a distance learning Associate Degree program at Miami Dade College. What this means is that when YME has programs established throughout the country students in Acklins, Crooked Island, Cat Island and Mayaguana, or any of the 30 islands can get an Associates Degree without having to leave their island.
I don’t think every Bahamian has to go to college, I don’t think that college is for every Bahamian. But I firmly believe that increasing access to post-secondary education is critical for national development. Studies show that quality education have long-term benefits on countries, and can have positive effects on individual earning, capacity and national growth.
Like Ms. Pig I have a plan. I believe that there is a solution to every problem. I may not have the perfect solution, ut if we can develop enough smaller plans that can fit into a National Plan we might be able to build a Bahamas that can withstand the huffs and the puffs.
References for this blog can be found in the Manuscript 'Young Marine Explorers: Capacity Building through a
Youth Outreach Program in The Bahamas by Nikita Shiel-Rolle, Suzanne Banas and Kathleen Sullivan Sealey 2015