Press conference on the Government Industrial School – March 20, 2021. (PMO)

The Government Industrial School (GIS) is set to start a new chapter under a new Board of Management which will be tasked with reforming how the institution is run.

The new Board will be led by Reverend Dr. Lucille Baird, as Chairman; Dr. Carl Ward as Deputy Chairman; while Stephanie Chase, Reverend Lennox Boyce, Cheryl Moore, and Kwame Bradshaw are board members. The statutory appointments are the Superintendent of Prisons or his nominee, and a sitting magistrate.

In addition, the Board will also call on the experience of Dr. Adrian Cummins as Legal Advisor, UNICEF for policy guidance and best practices, and Child Rights Advocate, Mrs. Faith Marshall-Harris as a special resource person.

These changes were announced during a virtual press conference this afternoon by Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams. He was joined by acting Principal of the GIS, Ronald Brathwaite, and Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Hospital, Dr. Brian MacLachlan.

Making reference to child protection legislation and the Child Justice Bill, he added that the new Board would be responsible for developing policies and programmes that reflect the philosophy that “children have rights and are a source to be nurtured”.

The Minister also disclosed that he would be meeting with the new Board next week to “impress upon them the need to work with UNICEF in reformatting…the emphasis and priorities of that institution”.

He hinted that a possible name change for the institution was also under consideration, along with a de-emphasising of institutional care.  

“These are among the recommendations I would like to see emanating from the new Board under the chairmanship of Reverend Baird, and in consultation with UNICEF and Mrs. Faith Marshall-Harris,” Mr. Abrahams outlined.

However, the Minister stressed that while there would always be a need for a secure facility to cater to children with challenges, it should cater to their emotional, psychological, academic, and recreational needs.

He added that the Ministry of Education had also pledged its support to work with the Board and its advisors to tailor the curriculum to make it relevant to the current generation of children, and give them the best chance possible on completing the residential programme.

“I spoke to every single member of the new Board. I advised them that there is a lot that plagues the institution, and for us to move forward, we have to clear all of that. We have to regain the trust of Barbados which has been shaken by this incident,” he stated, noting that the intention was to “strip the institution and rebuild it properly”.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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