On Friday the 18th June 2010, Report Card Day, at the Gerald Cash Primary School, five year old Mercedes Rahming of Heritage Road, Black Village, was taken to the School to be registered by her unemployed mother. The Principal a Mr. Clark, illegally charged the child’s mom a $100 for registration.
The mother told Mr. Clark that she did not have the monies and Mr. Clark refused to enroll the Black Village child and turned them away. When Workers Party Leader Rodney Moncur, who lives opposite the child’s mother arrived home at about 11 p.m. that evening, he met her waiting at his gates. She apprised him of what had happened earlier that day at the Gerald Cash Primary School. Mr. Moncur informed her that the registration fees were illegal as the Education Act guaranteed every child in The Bahamas a free education.
Moncur told the mom not to worry as he would stop all marches and demonstrations and to certain that the Minister of Education Desmond Bannister took this child into the government- run school.
A few days later, Mr. Moncur posted a complaint to the Minister’s face book about the failure of the Gerald Cash Primary School to enroll the five year old child. A few days after Mr. Moncur’s post on the face book of the Minister’s, a Mr. Clark responded on the Minister’s face book and Mr. Moncur pointed out to him that it was illegal to charge this child and if the child was not registered into the school that he would march to the Office of The Prime Minister when the Prime Minister returns from South Africa. This was still in the month of June.
Several days later, the Minister of Education Desmond Bannister replied to Mr. Moncur’s posting on his face book and told him that he should not have said those things.
In reply Moncur told the Minister, that the issue is that the Ministry was allowing the Gerald Cash Primary School to charged an illegal registration fee and if he did not register the child to attend the Gerald Cash Primary School that he Moncur, would march to the Prime Minister when he returns from South Africa. Minister Bannister did not respond and never indicated that he would give instructions to have the child registered.
On Thursday the 22nd July, 2010, five year old Mercedes Rahming marched through the streets of Black Village to demand that Minister of Education Desmond Bannister allow her to register free of charge to attend school. Rodney Moncur took the child’s photo to the Tribune and issued a statement condemning the Minister of Education for not protecting the rights of the child to a free education. After Moncur left the Tribune he went to the House of Assembly. While Mr. Moncur was sitting in the gallery, Prime Minister The Right Honourable Hubert A. Ingraham entered the Chambers and upon seeing Moncur sat next to him. The Prime Minister asked him if all was well with him. Mr. Moncur told the Prime Minister that all was not well with him as Desmond Bannister had failed to enroll the five year old child after the child’s mom was unable to afford the illegal One hundred Dollars to pay for registration.
Moncur also told the Prime Minister that he had taken the picture of the child to the Tribune and that he expected the Tribune to run a story on the matter. Mr. Moncur further told Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that he had been complaining about this matter on the Minister’s face book page since the Prime Minister was in South Africa and that Minister Desmond Bannister had failed to correct the problem. The Prime Minister agreed with Mr. Moncur that the fees were illegal and that the child should not have been charged. After this discussion the Prime Minister got up and took his seat.
Twelve minutes later, Minister Desmond Bannister arrived and took his seat near the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister immediately informed Mr. Bannister of what Mr. Moncur had to say and ordered Minister Bannister to correct the problem immediately. Mr. Bannister promptly got up and without bowing to the Speaker of the House of Assembly “rushed” to Mr. Moncur and asked him to follow him outside of the Chambers.
The Speaker, the Honourable Alvin Smith, proceeded to summon Mr. Bannister back to the Chambers drawing to his attention that he had not bowed. Bannister then got leave of the Speaker to depart from the Chambers.
Mr. Bannister then complained to Mr. Moncur that he could have called him to let him know about the matter involving the child instead of posting the complaints on his face book page. Minister Bannister then telephoned Mr. Clark at Gerald Cash and directed him to enroll the child into the school.
Minister Bannister asked Mr. Moncur to have the child go to Gerald Cash to be enrolled and she was finally enrolled this afternoon, Monday the 26th of July 2010.
In the House of Assembly this afternoon, it is believed that West End Member of Parliament, Obie Whilcolmbe, raised the matter and asked for government’s assurance that children are not being turned away from schools because their parents cannot pay the illegal registration fees.
Minister Bannister then told Parliament that he met with an individual ( Rodney Moncur) concerning this issue and he thought that it was clear that the child would not be charged any fees. After his comments Wilchcombe asked him to state that no child, no where will be turned away and the Speaker the Honourable Alvin Smith, a former teacher himself, said he too was concerned when he heard what was happening.