Our Readers' Opinions
September 1, 2017
No child left behind?

EDITOR: The introduction of universal access to secondary education by the ULP administration in 2005, dubbed the Education Revolution, arguably has been a success, especially when one takes into account that only about 40 per cent of 12-year-old children were entering secondary schools prior.

This means that more students are given the opportunity to continue their schooling, rather than end up ‘drop-outs’ at a young age. It also alleviates the stigma and the emotional trauma for those who may have desired to, but otherwise could not attend school because of the system that deemed them a ‘failure’.

Many of the students have not performed at the ‘expected’ level whilst at school, so there is obviously a need to cater for the ‘slower’ children and those who are not academically inclined – a different curriculum perhaps, streaming perhaps. So, in this sense, some children do get left behind!

But of greater interest to me personally are those who struggle day by day, to get to and from school; some who are eager to learn, some who are excelling academically. Of particular mention are the ones from capital Kingstown and its environs, who do not have the means to attend school at Campden Park or Buccament Bay. They must fend for themselves! I speak because for years I have encountered these children on the streets of Kingstown, begging for breakfast, bus fare, and have no lunch even after they would have made it to school. I know I am not alone.

A case jumps out at me, when being somewhat tired of being approached, skeptical even, I walked away one morning from the advance of a little boy dressed for school at Campden Park. I doubt I saw, but I felt his embarrassment, so I turned back to greet him. I engaged him in a conversation and concluded he was indeed hungry and hopeless. He had been living with his unemployed grandmother at Rose Place, along with three other siblings – mother and father had abandoned them.

I was concerned that even if I provided him with breakfast, he needed bus fare to get to school, then lunch, and fare to return home. I asked him to come with me, walking alongside him, as if he were my own. I was determined to treat him with dignity, even temporarily. I asked him what he wanted to eat; he didn’t ask for a whole lot. I attempted to walk into two places where he could get breakfast, then walked away and went to a particular restaurant. If only I had any doubts about this child’s plight, they were immediately erased when I was greeted by the attendant. She had a look. As I had the poor little boy order what he wanted, the attendant informed me that she had fed his brother earlier, and proceeded to confirm everything the child had told me.

Both brothers were doing well in school academically, despite their unfortunate circumstances; as a matter of fact, the older boy, who attends school at Buccament Bay, was deemed very bright.

What is wrong with this picture? It would appear that the Ministry of Education is not doing a diagnostic report on the background of these children, when placing them in those far away schools. Consideration ought to be made, because these children have to fend on a daily basis. They are not in schools where they can walk or even go home to fetch some kind of lunch, even if it’s dried bread and sugared water. Even if they have a couple of dollars, they must make choices – not buy something to eat, pay the bus and stay on a hungry belly, or just not go to school.

It is my hope that these students be reassigned to a school near them, or that one of the new school buses will be assigned to transport them to and from school, so as to help ease their burden, and feel like no child left behind! LaLa London