Politicising welfare of Guyana’s children

It is perturbing that even in Guyana’s acrimonious political landscape anyone can target children’s welfare and decry issuance of financial assistance to parents for their children’s benefit as a waste of money.
It boggles the mind that some politicians can be so unsympathetic to the plight of parents, some single, who are struggling in these COVID-19 times of great financial need and decimation of homes and resources by unprecedented floods.
Presumably, it seems like the Opposition thinks that their only mandate is to oppose any initiative undertaken by the Government, even if they derail programmes meant to improve the lives, in whatever way, of the Guyanese people. Education Minister Priya Manickchand has chided the Opposition for opposing the $19,000 cash grant that is currently being distributed to parents of children attending public schools countrywide.
A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Member of Parliament (MP) Coretta McDonald used her social media account to urge head teachers and teachers not to participate in the distribution exercise. The MP stated in her post on Facebook, “Head-teachers, you were trained as an educator not an accounts clerk! Distribution of cash to students/pupils is not your responsibility!” Teachers for whom the teaching profession is not only an income generator but a vocation, with the welfare of children being their primary motivator, have rightly rejected this call and are fully engaged in the cash grant distribution to grateful parents. Many teachers are themselves parents and recognise that, converse to McDonald’s contention and adjuration, that the welfare of their charges is their responsibility.
The Education Minister exasperatedly remarked, “… it is bizarre to me that any person or political party or any of their affiliates would object to Guyana’s families being assisted with $19,000 per child.
“The APNU/AFC just doesn’t do anything sensible, logical or lawful.”
McDonald is the General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), which, in a release, stated that, in keeping with its mandate to look after the welfare of its members (sic!), the GTU has stipulated “School administrators and staff are to refrain from handling or taking responsibility for cash/money; lend support where needed to verify authentic students from your school when called upon; Do not store cash/money relating to the Cash Grant and refrain from large gathering especially since COVID-19 cases and deaths are still being recorded in Guyana.”
Launched in 2014 under the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, the “Because We Care” project was implemented to provide support to parents with school-age children and increase their disposable income, to encourage increased enrolment and attendance rates.
However, the APNU/AFC Government scrapped the project after it took office, but the current PPP/C Government reinstated the initiative.
In a recent online interview, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo revealed that Government was mulling the idea of including children attending private schools in its grant initiatives.
The VP stated, inter alia: “A number of people have contacted us from the private schools and parents are also saying that they want their children to receive the money too. There’s been a debate in the first when we introduced it, it was not introduced for private school kids, it was for public schools; so we’ve asked the Minister of Education to look at how many kids are going to school in the Private Sector. The Ministry does not have all of the numbers, but they are trying to verify all of the numbers.”
He said, however, that if the Government does extend the cash grant to private institutions, stringent measures will need to be put in place to ensure that the intended beneficiaries receive the grant, adding: “We are actively examining the possibility of extending the help or the grant to kids going to private schools. Maybe not all of them will take it, but some parents have been making this solid case that they struggle at home to make their kids go to private schools.”
He iterated: “It’s not as though they are rich, and in a way, those kids that go to private schools, they take some pressure off the public schools too, in terms of space, so the Government will consider all the facts on this issue, and we will make a determination very soon on the matter.”
Politics should be about people and not merely about power. Providing leadership means supporting measures and initiatives that will help people.