Computer baby joins teen pregnancy fight
Freeport News Reporter
A computerized baby will be the key weapon to combat teen pregnancy on Grand Bahama and throughout The Bahamas, it was revealed yesterday. Past president of Southeast Nassau Rotary Club Peter Goudie and Sabrina Russell-Skinner of the Ministry of Education, Health and Family Life unveiled Baby Think It Over Inc., a program of Realityworks, a United States company that uses experiential learning technology to educate and reduce the impact of teen pregnancy through the use of interactive technology to the Rotary Club of Freeport.
Realityworks manufactures RealCare Baby II, an infant simulator with sophisticated engineering designed with lifelike baby features that sounds, responds and acts like a real baby.
Goudie hopes to raise funds through the efforts of Rotary Clubs here on Grand Bahama to have the infant simulators introduced into the government school system both on the island and countrywide as a part of family life and planning programs within the high schools.
"We first got ourselves involved with Bahamas Family Planning long before we met Sabrina.
"We learnt about the program through Kent Clause who first heard about it at a Rotary Conference in St. Croix by a St. Thomas Rotarian who told him about the baby project.
"Kent came to me and told me about it saying that we have got the ultimate family planning tool (through this program) but we had to raise money to fund it and we did.
According to Goudie since the program was implemented in schools in Nassau there has been much success.
The infant simulators are given to students to take care of over the weekend at home as a part of their family life class studies.
Each student is outfitted with a tamper resistant bracelet that is uniquely designed to work solely with the preprogrammed infant they are given.
Both boys and girls have to take the infant home and provide the necessary care it needs without the assistance of their parents or anyone else.
The students are required to respond to the infant's needs, as a normal parent would be expected to. Students must get up change and feed the infant, hold the baby correctly and calm the baby if it is fussy.
The infant's intricate mak-eup records every second of care or lack of care given to it and at the end of the program students are required to write about their experience with the infant simulator.
Goudie asked the Rotarians to ensure that they support the program completely once the funding is raised and the simulators are introduced and utilized in the schools.
He asked the Rotarians to talk to the students, encourage them as they go along in the program and he is certain there would be a reduction in teen pregnancy and the strain it could have, not only on the teen and their family but society in general.
"Through this program we know we have made a dent because at one time when we first got involved, the illegitimate birth rate in this country was 70 percent.
"That is huge! Now it is down to under 60 percent.
"We do have reports that the illegitimate birth rate in people under 19 years old is down significantly.
"So obviously there is an impact being made whether it is due to all that we have done or the joint effort with what is being done in the classes in the schools," Goudie said.
Each one of the infants cost $700 and Goudie is of the fervent belief that if a person can spend $700 on a baby and that could prevent a pregnancy, this could very well allow one young lady to complete her schooling, receive a proper education, break the cycle of teen pregnancy that might have been a pattern within her family for generations, produce a productive citizen and social services would not be burdened with the bill to facilitate the need of the child.
"The main thing is the awareness factor is there, whether it gets to every one of them, you can only try," said Goudie.
This program is very important and apart from causing a significant reduction in teen pregnancy it could very well help steer teens in the direction to abstain from any form of sexual activity.
Russell-Skinner noted that the program is only being used in the government system for now but she hopes family planning classes will soon be made mandatory across the board for young students and adults as well.
"At this time the focus of this will be on the Grade 8 students, so all of the junior high schools will be targeted with this program," she declared.
Russell-Skinner explained that eighth grade students were chosen to use the infant simulators because seventh graders would just be introduced to the high school system and would be trying to make the adjustment from having just one teacher in the primary schools system to now having more than one class to go to and teacher to deal with.
"By Grade 8 the students would be a bit more settled and able to participate in the program without having too many distractions and they would not be pressured as they would be in the ninth grade with having to study for the BJC examinations," Russell-Skinner said.
The number of infant simulators expected to be utilized in the schools here is unknown at this time but Russell-Skinner said, "We have discovered that we can at least work with 10 babies per class as is the case in Nassau and it is our hope to have the same reflected in all the schools here on Grand Bahama." Principal of PACE Shirley Butler who was in attendance at the Rotary meeting said, "I applaud the efforts of Realityworks and I am an advocate of anything that is a deterrent to teen pregnancy.
"I hope this continues and that they are able to bring this to the Family Islands particularly Grand Bahama."
Parents are entreated to learn about and support the program and talk with their children as well.
For many parents it is still taboo to discuss sex and all it entails but parents are asked to move away from that frame of thinking and be frank with their children as it regards sex education.
Sexual abstinence is still the 100 percent best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and possibly being infected with sexually transmitted diseases or infections and if persons feel that they cannot abstain all are asked to use condoms.
© 2012 The Freeport News