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Make English a second language, UNICEF tells BVI

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for an end to discriminatory practices and policies against Spanish-speaking persons in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

As such it has proposed that – among other things – English should become a second language at school for persons whose mother tongue is Spanish.

“Identify the need for English as a second language in primary and secondary schools and create a programme to assist children from non-English-speaking countries,” said the international organization.

It stated that Spanish-speaking persons – many of them citizens of the BVI – face challenges in the classroom and elsewhere throughout the society as a result of a language barrier.

UNICEF explains, “Those children who do not speak English are in the same educational system as the ones who do, but there is no formal support for them. The same situation happens in government-related services where Spanish-speaking civil servants – including welfare workers and police officers – are few.”

“According to the interviewees, many of the behavioural problems among the immigrants at school as well as the dropouts being reported are connected to students’ frustration to not understanding the teacher. Also, the language barrier is cited as one of the reasons why the non-belonger community does not report violence and other abuses,” UNICEF further said in its 2016 report – Situation Analysis of Children in the British Virgin Islands.

In the report, which was tabled in the BVI House of Assembly a few days ago, UNICEF noted that, in relation to Spanish-speaking BVIslanders, the influx of migrants from the Dominican Republic has been increasing. “Some of the immigrants are actually descendants of [BVI] belongers who moved to Hispaniola to work on the sugar plantations in the beginning of the 20th century, and are now returning due to better economic prospects in the BVI,” UNICEF further said.

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