GUYANA: ‘Because we care’ child cash grant – By Mosa Telford

The government of Guyana through the Ministry of Education has begun to distribute the ‘Because We Care’ cash grant to every child in the public school system. Each child will receive a grant of $15,000 and school uniform and supplies grant of $4,000 making it a total of $19,000. The government has promised that within the next five years the grant will be increased to $50,000. Within the next five years $50,000 might be of equal or less value than what $19,000 is now.

Instead of only an annual cash grant to assist parents, ‘Because We Care’ should be about a comprehensive approach to solving the issues that affect Guyanese children. It should be about every Guyanese child having access to the same learning opportunities and a balanced education that would allow them to explore their natural abilities.     

Parents are appreciative of the help they are receiving from the government. Many will say ‘Because We Care’ demonstrates that the government does indeed care and that $19,000 is better than nothing.

Often, instead of addressing the root causes of issues like poverty, we give the people a pittance and they are happy in the short term before realizing that they have been bamboozled. Some never realize that they have been conditioned to accept the bare minimum. Born and raised in hardship, trained to not challenge authority, the people are often so docile and desperate that they accept what is given with no questions; there is no resistance to the system that keeps them impoverished and they make little or no demands for what they deserve. Soon, the same issues will be staring them in the face and they wait for the next handout. Is this what will alleviate poverty in Guyana? Is this what will empower parents and permanently improve their standard of living?

What we need are long term solutions to the poverty and economic inequalities that exist here. I understand that because we care about the Guyanese children being educated, we want to make sure that they have the necessary tools to attend school when it reopens. I commend such intentions but ‘Because We Care’ should also be part of a comprehensive plan to make sure that the parents and guardians of Guyana’s children, whether they are a cleaner, manager or politician, are making living wages so that whether they are given a cash grant or not, the children’s needs can be adequately met.

When the $19,000 is spent and some children are still burdened by the ongoing issues poverty presents, what plans are there? When the $19,000 is spent and parents have not been given salary increases to keep up with the rising cost of living in Guyana, are the children better off? When the $19,000 is spent and every school in Guyana does not have the same facilities and teachers are still underpaid, how much progress are we making? When the $19,000 is spent and teachers still must spend their money to buy supplies for their classrooms, do we really care? When the $19,000 is spent and we are setting children up to fail in life by telling them that if they do not attend a “top school”, their performance is unsatisfactory, do we really care?

Perhaps my questions about this grant would differ if every Guyanese child received $19,000 a month. That would make a difference until Guyana becomes the country where we can all live comfortably without needing grants or remittances. Perhaps I would not have questions if the government would impress the Guyanese people and pay them what they deserve. Impress us by creating more jobs in our communities so that every person who wants to be employed can be employed and we can work with the assurance that the opportunities to advance are present as we develop our communities.

We have been told in the past that the country does not have money. No money to raise salaries or fulfil other promises to the people. This we have heard too many times. The people’s needs are present and continuous. The people cannot tell the banks, the utility companies, their landlords, the supermarkets, the gas stations, the taxi, bus drivers and others that they do not have money.

Guyana having oil wealth is a joke to many people now. Quickly people have realized that it has not made a difference in their lives unless they are working directly in the oil industry. But Guyana never needed oil to build this country. We have always had a wealth of resources, so much so that no Guyanese should be living in poverty.

Since the announcement of the grant some parents whose children attend private schools have complained about discrimination. I suppose the assumption is that because private school parents can pay for an education, they do not need a grant. But the fact is, many poor Guyanese make sacrifices to send their children to private schools. Yes, there some parents who do not need the grant, but what about the ones who do? And if one is going to argue that parents do not have to send their children to private school because education is free, how would the public school accommodate all the children in private schools when there are already issues such as overcrowding? Children in both private and public schools excel, but many parents believe their children would have an easier time attending a private school.

For years we have been speaking about how broken our education system is. We have been calling for equality so that all Guyanese children would have the same access and opportunities. Whether in private or public schools, all Guyana’s children need an environment that will nurture them and hone their skills or talents.

The disparity between Guyana’s children has been felt during COVID. Many of the children attending private schools were able to continue their education doing online classes. For online classes to be occur children need electronics, like computers and tablets. Public schools also continued through online learning, but many teachers were sending work via WhatsApp, which is not an effective way of teaching. In some instances, parents had to work at home with their children and then take the worksheets to the school. Many children were left behind because they had no internet access.

Cash grants can be a temporary fix, but what Guyana’s children need are permanent solutions. Every Guyanese child should have access to the internet and ‘Because We Care’ is one initiative that should work to make this a reality. We are watching the gaps widen between the rich and the poor and Guyana is slipping away from many Guyanese.

‘Because We Care’ should work to ensure that the next generation does not inherit the struggles of their parents. ‘Because We Care’ should work so that the next generation will not need cash grants for their children. We can dream of Guyana’s wealth being more evenly distributed and because we care this does not have to be a dream but a reality.
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  • Dennis Albert  On 07/24/2021 at 5:43 pm

    Diaspora based Guyanese living in the ABCEU countries work like dawg to become homeless, while my country is giving cash grants that will be almost a month wages in GT.

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