Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Noticeably Pregnant!


By Mshaka


As most people know, there is an ongoing, heated debate about the proposed amendment to the Education Act which seeks to prohibit “noticeably pregnant” “students” from attending school.

While it is true that there is need for programs to prevent girls from becoming pregnant during their school years, this “Bill” does not seek to do that.

What it does is that it seeks to first remove the “noticeably pregnant” “girl” from her school, and second to punish her for becoming pregnant.

This Bill has nothing to with any concern for education. It has to do with adults concerns for some kind of effervescent morality… not morality having to do with teenage sex… but of teenage pregnancy.

If it was about teenage sex then the other party to the pregnancy… the boys or men… would also be targeted. But as far as I am aware, the Bill is silent about the males in the equation.

No – it is not about sexual behavior.

And, the system only punishes the girl if and when she becomes “noticeably pregnant”. If no one notices… then, hey, everything is OK. This is like the US Military’s rule about homosexuality in the US Armed Forces…. “Don’t see, don’t tell.” Keep it your homosexual orientation (or preferences) and certainly your activities… hidden!

So a young girl must hide her pregnancy! Tell them that you are just gaining weight. Wear overly large clothing. Whatever happens, don’t become “noticeably pregnant”. If you do become “noticeably pregnant” you will have to take off your uniform… and you will be banished from your school – denied of education – at least for a year… and after that – well… who knows!

Now what happens if no one notices and she never becomes “noticeably pregnant?” And let’s say she then has the baby. What then? She was never noticeably pregnant… so according to the law she should be able to stay in school after her delivery - (she was out sick…).

In the meantime, the male – the equal partner to the pregnancy - does not ever become “noticeably pregnant” and is not required to be “noticeably involved”.

Let’s say he is a fellow school mate… what then? Well, he is OK. He is not “noticeably pregnant”. He never will be… even if this is his second, third, fourth… Never mind all that… He is not “noticeably pregnant”.

And, remember that this is not about sexual activity by school aged children… this is about having a pregnant girl going to school.

One supporter of this odiferous Bill told me that “The young woman (after she becomes “noticeably pregnant”) will be a poor role model, will be a bad influence, and will send the wrong message to the other girls in the school!

Huh? What? What is the wrong message that she is sending?

Since the concern is not about sex… it has to be about not becoming “noticeably pregnant”. So her classmates, her friends… and the other girls around them… can be sexually active… as many of her friends probably are.

All they have to do is to just make sure that they don’t become pregnant. And if they do get pregnant… make sure that they are never “noticeably pregnant”.

Now… in the meantime the boys can go on having sex and fathering babies…! And the if they are older… and the girl is younger… then everyone turns a blind eye to that Gargantuan issue… Does the Bill address repercussions for them?

What is the answer to this situation?

  • There are only four issues to be addressed:Address the issue of teenage sexuality by developing prevention and intervention programs. There are tons of blue ribbon, research driven, proven, best-practices programs available worldwide. We even had one in Antigua years ago when the Youth Project (on Factory Road) was initiated.
  • If a girl becomes pregnant there should be a program that triggers a plethora of health, social and educational services to wrap around her. She should not lose out on educational services because she is 15 and pregnant. If anything… that should trigger greater concern for than for her peers because of her pending responsibility for another life. If the government opts for an alternative education program – it should be robust, well funded and seamlessly integrated with health and social services. And – every effort should be made to reduce any stigmatization that could come with such programs. In other words – there should be a strong focus on conscious-raising public awareness campaigns that highlight the importance of public support for these two children… mother and child.
  • Intensive wrap-around social and health services should be developed for the mother and baby once she has given birth. Such services would include parenting classes. Her education should be continued until she completes her secondary education. I would also submit that career guidance counseling should also be provided.
  • Finally, the issue of the males involved should be addressed. Steps taken should include legal, social, educational or psychological interventions. The legal issues are clear. However, school-age fathers… (who are going to school) should be involved in parenting classes along with the teenage mother!

I find the idea of putting “noticeably pregnant” in a Bill repulsive.

I find the idea of leaving the decision up to the School’s principal similarly obnoxious. Why? Well… I cannot imagine any of today’s bible-toting, bible-quoting principals making a decision to keep a “noticeably pregnant” young girl in their sight! So let’s not leave it up to them!

I suggest that a lot more thought must go into any decisions that are being made on these issues. There are many important things to consider. But the most important has to do with the young mother to be and her unborn baby – whether she is “noticeably pregnant” or not.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Direct Result of Immigration Policy


By Mshaka


Every day when I listen to the radio and television news… it feels as though I am listening to accounts from Jamaica.

I remember about ten years ago, a friend of mine was contemplating a potential contract that would have had him doing significant work in Jamaica. He would have had to interface with residents in some of Jamaica’s poorest neighborhoods. He was seriously considering it because of the “nice pay per day” that he was going to receive for a six month contract.

He asked his wife. She objected. He asked his kids… they objected. He asked his mom and dad. They objected. He still persevered and was about to go… a man has to do what a man has to do. Well… he almost had a family mutiny on his hands.

He finally decided that he would not go. Since then he has been to Iraq and Somalia. Recently, he had another opportunity to go to Jamaica to do similar work for an international agency. He again decided not to go!

Where is this guy from? His wife is Jamaican. His parents are Jamaican. His oldest son is Jamaican. He…. is Jamaican – from Negril! Has he been back to Jamaica… Yes… he did the tourist thing – he went to the North Coast where all the hotels are… with a brief… hurried trip to his home town.

He talks about the high levels of senseless crimes in his country… where apparently no one feels safe. He talks about the criminals who have no respect for law and order. He talks about the fact that people who live there everyday feel a sense of being bombarded and imprisoned in “dem own yard”.

He talks about the fact that ordinary citizens of good conscience are now carrying various types of weapons… to defend themselves.

He talks about the fact that many women don’t feel safe. He says that, according to family members who are still there, neighborhoods seem like war zones…

He says that children are growing up with this sense of being traumatized on a daily basis… rapes, gunfire, stabbings, armed robberies, political violence, murders…

As he talks and I listen… I begin to get goose bumps… This sounds like Antigua (not yet Barbuda).

My mind begins to drift… How did Antigua get like Jamaica? I remember growing up in Perry Bay… Tinning Village to be exact… We had our doors and windows open and only closed them for rain – or the mosquitoes… or the awful smell from Tom’s ‘night soil’ carts!

Now… it doesn’t matter where you live… you close your windows and doors, and not only lock them… but put on padlocks and turn on the alarm.

Probably the fastest growing business in Antigua is the security business.

How did we get this way?

There is only one answer… All those things were imported from Jamaica and elsewhere.

All of this is a direct result of the myopic, treacherous and criminal policy of the former ALP government who were tricked by the Guyanese idea to import voters into Antigua to boost their diminishing support among Antiguans.

This is also a direct result of the weak kneed, snail-paced, and indecisive policy of the current UPP Government who for political reasons are afraid – have been afraid to develop a firm policy towards immigration.

It is a mistake that the UPP Government will pay dearly for.

Both Governments… the former and the current are responsible for the wave of endemic violence that we are now seeing and the fear that has embraced our beautiful island – where supposedly - “the beach is just the beginning…“  (Of what? But that’s another story!)

Now the violence has reached our beaches and impacting our one-industry economy!

I know that some will make the argument that some of the perpetrators of these criminal acts are our own Antiguan people. I agree.


Just like many of our Antiguan brothers and sisters have adopted the nefarious, ghetto, ‘xyznklitzvt’ behaviors, songs, mindset, attitudes, dress and other sub-cultural artifacts from Jamaica (and Guyana)… A small set  of Antiguans have also adopted the criminal sub-culture and criminal psychological mindsets from these countries.

I also know that some of you will make the argument that some Antiguans have brought back their criminal lifestyles from the United States. The trouble with that argument is that we don’t have any statistics on how many of those people have been deported by to Antigua.

What we do know… is that with the massive tidal wave of Jamaicans and Guyanese (and others) who have come to Antigua… have come Tom, Dick & Dirty Harry – and many of them from the criminal underbelly of those countries.

What do we do now?

Our immigration policy needs to be fixed right now. Every crime… every robbery… every rape… every murder… I lay squarely on the doorstep of the politicians… past and present.

Every delay in fixing the immigration policy… every delay in ensuring that every person in Antigua is properly documented (nationals and foreigners)… every hesitation to do the right thing… for whatever reason… every delay adds to the number of crimes… the number of rapes…

UPP – do the right thing! Fix the immigration policy now. Re-election or not! Antiguans are living in fear. Our women live in fear. Many don’t sleep well. Our children are hurting… the violence and the negative foreign live styles are impacting them too!

UPP – Fix immigration now. Stop being afraid of the foreign vote! Good people – nationals and foreigners will not only understand – they will agree. The foreigners among us are subjected to the same violence and crimes and rapes as Antiguans are. They are suffering too!

Mr. Spencer – leadership is about courage. It is about doing the right thing! Close those immigration loopholes now! Then set about documenting every breathing person in Antigua!

I am placing this crime spree, violence debacle, and the waves of rapes right on the doorstep of both leaders… both parties…

Who else can we hold accountable?

Who else can fix this problem?