In this time of uncertainty for all our students, some students carry heavier burdens than others, financial insecurity being among the main stressors.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the displacement caused by the eruptions of La Soufriere have worsened the financial situation of many families, with very little left over to prepare students for the start of the new school year. And if our youngsters’ basic physical needs are not being met, they would not be able to make the most of the educational opportunities that have been put in place for them.
That is why it is so pleasing to observe the many businesses, utility companies, co-operatives, alumni groups, churches and other organisations who are now offering scholarships and bursaries to our secondary school age children, and we urge others to come forward, especially at this time when there are so many in need.
In the past, many of the scholarships were only available to the children of members or employees of organisations or were based strictly on academic performance in the secondary school entrance exam. Thankfully, many entities are now widening their net to also include financially disadvantaged children, bolstering those children’s chances of putting an end to the cycle of poverty in their families.
No one is under the impression that the financial assistance offered by these groups is sufficient to cover all the costs of attending secondary school or that every child who is in need gets help. However, the grants greatly assist in easing the heavy financial burden associated with getting our students ready for school and meeting their daily expenses.
The Zero Hunger Trust Fund (ZHTF) is therefore a most welcomed initiative as it works in the most disadvantaged communities of the country among families whose members are unlikely to be members of organisations or to be employed with businesses that provide scholarships. And the support from the ZHTF goes beyond books and supplies; it assists with teaching support and nutritious meals for those in need. Then there is the Social Welfare Department that provides school uniforms and other material support to at risk children.
Despite all this, there are some children who will not be caught by these safety nets, usually because their parents or guardians are not aware of the available support or are unwilling to do what is necessary to access it.
This is where ‘The Village’ comes in. Oftentimes, not wanting to offend, members of the community opt to “mind their own business”.
However, where the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens is concerned, their business is our business. We need to alert our neighbours to the fact that help is available and do everything in our power to assist them in accessing it.