by Tricia Simon
I have one son and I said to him that I should have another chile and he said “aren’t you too old?”
Mia Mottley in one of her excellent speeches stated that we need mo chilren in de Caribbean basin. So ah still want ah chile, he too fresh!!! When Mama Mia talk we need to listen so leh we all get on dis for national development – for countree! Wisdom comes with age and that wisdom and guidance is most valuable especially during challenging times as we face today.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states,
Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,
Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity
These two paragraphs simply mean that as a society we should provide our children with all the assistance and tools to become productive citizens. Second, that ah chile is ah chile – all are equal.
Grenada boasts a booming middle class and one central trait of middle-class parents is that they are driven to see their children succeed. Thus, (a) the children are sent to private schools for their education especially at the primary level (b) the children attend extra-curricular activities (and ah swear the parents are competing as well, they live vicariously through their kids), (c) the children are encouraged to succeed (d) the parents invest heavily in their children – time, effort and money (e) their children attend post-secondary education outside of Grenada. The reality is that these parents see their children as worthy of giving them their all, they are given all the time, effort, energy and things that they were not provided by their parents. Remember, these parents may be one of at least six children whose parents had limited resources.
Ah want ah top up for meh child….In Canada the Canada Child Benefit is a “tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age.” This acts as an incentive for individuals to have children as there is assistance in the cost of rearing those children. Such incentives should be universal for ah chile is ah chile.
The government of Grenada offers the Support for Education Empowerment and Development (SEED) and other programmes primarily for children who fall into a lower income bracket. This allows them to develop. Assistance is also provided in the form of school books, uniforms, subsidised daycare, transport and the school feeding programme. The reality is that these programmes should be made universal – ah chile is ah chile. Then middle-class parents would be encouraged to have more children. Can you imagine having 6 children and sending them to private school at $1500 per child, per term?
A universal school bus programme can be implemented where there are designated school buses to take the children directly from home to school and school to home. This would use the same buses currently plying the regular routes. Pick up at the school and a trip to drop off the children at their respective homes. Special buses can be used for this programme where the drivers and conductors are vetted for good character and a criminal record, trained on customer service and child safety. I was at a certain business location one day and the mother who resides in Westerhall had to close early and leave to pick up her daughter at Mother Rose. This is very unproductive for her as well as the country. I see the long lines in the morning at Alpha, going down Parade and Old Fort as parents drop off the children. This means being late for work depending on the traffic and the resulting loss in productivity. Meh child go take duh school bus – my designated bus was Cutty – thank you for taking me safely each day. This also acts as a safety net for our children in that they are protected from individuals who prey on their vulnerability when they take certain buses. Thus, it lessens the need for our children to say – doh touch meh!
I reside in the Mt Parnassus/Tempe vicinity and in such a small area we can boast of 5 schools which are privately run. Thus, a stipend can be provided for parents who opt to send their children to private school – ah lickle top up. Private schools allow the state to save money in regards to education since the state no longer needs to spend money on additional teachers and facilities to educate the children in the alternative school system.
Meh fren say he sen he daughter to Convent (St Joseph’s Convent) because he wants to ensure she receives a good education. Convent is viewed as the top school for girls to attend in regards to secondary education in Grenada – ah know, dey ah went an ah ent come out too bad. With this, it is important that all schools in Grenada strive to achieve excellence in regards to ensuring our children receive a top-notch education. The responsibility lies with parents and other stakeholders to ensure our children are well educated. We need to ensure the public school system is even better compared to the private school system so the parents would have confidence to send their children to public schools. During the days of slavery our fore-parents were whipped if they were able to read and write. Thus, they valued education and even with fear pursued an education. Today, some parents do not place such high value on education not realising the disservice they are doing to their children and the nation. The reality is that some of them cannot even read and write for deyself. They were skipped over in school – thus remedial programmes are necessary for the adults. We are our brothers’ keeper and it would simply take a more educated individual to provide assistance to their fellow brothers – volunteer to teach a class. As a society, we need to volunteer much more and help each other to rise as one nation, one people.
Our children are sent abroad to further their education to obtain a Master’s degree or PhD in biophysics, nuclear technology, zoology, bioinformatics, materials science, electrical engineering etc. These are programmes which for the most part are not offered in the Caribbean basin. These children think outside of the box and so travel afar. Although, the internet and online learning has drastically altered this trend – our children are able to remain at home and obtain a world-class education. Some return and others remain in their new homeland. The 2 key drivers of outward migration are (a) to further one’s education and (b) to obtain a high paying job. Thus, to curb that migration the Caribbean basin needs to holistically improve its offerings in the 2 above areas.
For our continued development, we need to ensure our children and their offspring remain connected to the homeland – Grenada. A system can be set up where they can give back to Grenada as part of the diaspora. Students who travel abroad on scholarships, as well as individuals who reside in the diaspora, can volunteer in their respective area of expertise. The Grenada Tourism Authority has introduced its Voluntourism programme which “aims to bridge the gap between visiting for leisure and travellers interested in volunteering their time to support a charitable cause.” This new voluntourism programme provides ample opportunities for Grenadians and individuals of Grenadian descent to contribute to Grenada while in the diaspora.
Institutions of higher learning are at the cutting edge of trends in their respective fields. Thus, a programme can be set up where a student who has obtained a scholarship is required to volunteer in the respective area where he/she studies. Thus, a student completing a programme in agriculture would be required to provide a certain number of volunteer hours in that respective area while he/she studies. The benefits of such a programme are numerous (a) that individual remains connected to Grenada (b) gets the opportunity to understand the dynamics of his/her respective area of study on the ground in Grenada (c) understand the challenges and opportunities in Grenada and so able to help in addressing those (d) collaborate and provide cutting edge advice to individuals in Grenada.
If ah ha meh chile ah want meh chile to attend the government daycare. Even if I decide to keep meh chile home ah want ah top up to help wid de cost. Back in the days, grandmothers would remain at home and look after the children – now they work outside of the home, so childcare is very expensive.
And dat is why sum people making chilren and not others. We all need a lickle help to raise dem chilren so they can become productive citizens. The reality is that if we do not have enough children our National Insurance Scheme (NIS) go buss – dat is wha meh odder fren say, so who go pay we pension wen we get ole? Who go mine us wen we get ole if we have one chile? Ah want ah top up to make ah chile!!!
Tricia Simon is an Attorney-at-Law called to the bar in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Province of Ontario, Canada.