GRAND BAHAMA, The Bahamas – With the relaunch of the Local Government Junior Council Programme in full swing at 38 schools in the Family Islands and one in New Providence, Minister of Works and Family Island Affairs, the Hon. Clay Sweeting visited a number of schools on October 19, 2023 to get a first-hand account of the electoral process.
Minister Sweeting congratulated the schools throughout the country for welcoming the initiative and the Local Government team for helping to bring the programme to fruition.
“For us, Local Government is about bringing government closer to the people and how better to do that than to involve the children throughout the country, especially in the Family Islands,” he said, while on the campus at Jack Hayward High in Grand Bahama.
“To be here today and to see that they had over 75 percent registered at the school and also completed the voting process today; to be engaged, not just in Local Government but in how the general election process is as well.”
Following the election process, each Council will be given a minimum of $4,000 to assist with their projects and will be responsible for selecting three Boards: Grounds; Facilities; and Academic, Athletic and Activities (AAA).
Minister Sweeting, who also started out in Local Government, noted that a number of agencies, including the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Education, the Police and Defence Forces, the Parliamentary Department as well as Local Government, pooled their resources for the initiative.
“It’s a team effort for sure and then we have members of Parliament who are helping to assist with some funding; we have private donors that will assist with funding for each school and that funding will be used by the Council,” he said.
The Councils will be guided by school officials on budgeting and expenses and will learn how to work together on projects.
“They will have a chief councillor, the same as the local Council, board members, the same as a Local Government and they will be able to vote. It will be a full experience of being an actual Local Government in the schools,” he said.
The pilot programme was initiated in 2009 with six schools in the Family Islands.
The 2023 programme relaunch under the theme, “Advancing Local Government through Empowerment,” saw a total of 6,403 registered student voters and 501 candidates throughout The Bahamas is designed to foster leadership in young Bahamians.
“They’re excited. This is an initiative that I didn’t get when I was in school, and probably some others, so this is something that will help make you feel that you’re a part of your community and then to transition to Local Government and what it really means to help to develop our communities and mold the places we will on the Family Islands,” Minister Sweeting said.
Nominations were held on Tuesday, October 10.
Seven schools are participating in Grand Bahama — Eight Mile Rock High, Jack Hayward Junior and Senior High, Sister Mary Patricia Junior High, Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Academy, Grand Bahama Academy, and St. Georges High School.
From Jack Hayward High, Minister Sweeting led a delegation to Eight Mile Rock High School before travelling to Eleuthera.
A swearing-in ceremony is tentatively set for October 30th.
During the pilot launch, the programme catered to 10th and 11th graders. It is now open to students from seventh to 12th grade in both public and private schools.