Our Readers' Opinions
September 4, 2009
Round of Applause – Overcoming Poverty through Education

by Nilio Gumbs 04.SEPT.09

In the 1970’s and in more recent times, the only summer program for children in this country was conducted by the management and staff of the National Library, a programme that was remarkably influential in shaping many a young ones perspective on life.{{more}}

This summer, there have been several summer programs for children throughout the country, such as Children Against Poverty (CAP) and the Bridging Programme, to help disadvantaged students to overcome the many hurdles that may hinder them from performing well in school.

Man’s inclination is to focus on existing institutional weaknesses, critically commenting on such, while often ignoring the strengths and successes achieved in other areas.

In this age of political polarity and blatant subjectivity, we must strive to be impartial and rightfully applaud when it so deserves. The government, through the Ministry of National Mobilization and Jacqueline Glasgow Browne from the Ministry of Education, must be given the thumbs up and many kudos for organizing this year’s summer camp, and their vision in focusing and redressing one of the ills which has kept poor people’s children and this country down and at the bottom of the ladder in the OECS.

The strong emphasis on Early Childhood Education augurs well for the future, in seeking to remedy many of the problems faced by disadvantaged children in this country. These include numeracy and literacy programmes.

The problems of innumeracy and illiteracy in some ways can be attributed to the environment and the lack of stimulation these children received in their infant years, placing them at a disadvantage when they enter primary school.

There are other school programs such as the school feeding and the book loan schemes that will help to mitigate the negative impacts inhibiting the progress of many working class children.

The latter two programs can also be construed as poverty alleviation measures, while at the same time learning interventionist strategies, so critical low income children in developing countries with fairly high incidence of poverty.

The incorporation of private sector is also critical in ensuring the sustainability of these programs in the future. The Adonal Foyle Summer Basketball Camp was such an example and a smashing success, which undoubtedly will impact on those young minds in the long run.

The impact of these programmes must be tracked through analytical research. For example, no one has an iota of knowledge as to how many working class or low income children come within the top 500 Common Entrance Examination places. A similar assertion can be made about CSEC and GCE O’Levels.

This is critical if education and society are to become more egalitarian rather than the creation of a small educated elite, which appears to manifest itself at present.

The Ministry of Education should be cognizant of the social dynamic of society. The majority of households are headed by single individuals, which tends to be more heavily burdened by financial constraints. Despite the official policy, greater effort must be made to place children from the same household at the same primary school or secondary schools in the nearest zonal school, providing they fall outside the top 500 places. So to it minimizes the cost of transportation and the attendance time to schools’ PTA meetings for the parent.

There is the new trend of using ‘work books’ which cannot be handed down to other siblings, thus placing added financial strain on working class parents to repurchase those books. The replacements of text books with locally produced teaching models will ease the financial burden to the household and the state.

In deepening the Education Revolution, Civics should be re-introduced into schools, with strong emphasis on explaining the historical circumstance of many working class children’s predicament, with emphasis on conflict and struggle to overcome such. This will go a long way in curbing the wanton decadence of poor youths alienated and disillusion by a societal system which they don’t understand and to which they cannot relate.