Education, the thorn in the side of poverty

by Tricia Simon, LLB, BCom, Dip.

I am a product of being raised by my grandmother who continually stated, “education lifts you out of poverty”. With that mantra drummed into my head on a daily basis, I developed an insatiable appetite for learning. My peers and I valued education, and competition was the name of the game.

In October 2017 my son completed his second college diploma and in June 2018 he telephoned and stated that he needed money to purchase groceries. Typically, I would send him the money; instead, I said, “get a job or go on welfare, take the money, it is free.” I then asked him when he was starting university and his response was, “well I should start university because I cannot live a comfortable life on minimum wage.” I totally agreed. By this time all the universities in the Greater Toronto Area were full, so he had to pack his bags and travel 14 hours away. The lesson he learnt was simple, “education lifts you out of poverty”.

As West Indian parents we typically look towards teachers as the ones to educate our children where they would attend school for 3 terms, 5 days a week for several hours per day. Covid-19 has turned this model on its proverbial head and parents are left to scramble and become teachers. We live in a digital age where technology is a great equaliser due to the accessibility of knowledge. But I am reminded of the book, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki where in summary, the children of the wealthy continue to prosper based on the lessons taught by their parents. We are schooled in using our talents as described in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14–30 and during this time we need to ensure our children reach their maximum potential.

I am in Grenada on Covid-19 lockdown and I look at the children in the neighbourhood. Some parents have set up a regime where their children follow the same format as a regular school day with the learning and discipline that entails. On the other hand, I see others who play for the majority of the day with little learning. The fallout from Covid would be a cohort of students left far behind their peers. The reality is that as a society we could be faced with a high unemployment rate, low productivity, increased crime and all the ills of an uneducated populous if we fail our children.

Recently, my father was amazed that he was having meetings on Zoom. An article in the New York Times, Research Shows Students Falling Months Behind During Virus Disruptions, highlighted the issue of the disruption on education. Here in Grenada, this can be avoided if a comprehensive plan is put in place where the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders such as internet providers, computer suppliers, teachers, parents, etc., come together. First, a study should be conducted to determine which students require internet access and a computer or tablet. This programme would be similar to the programme where schoolbooks are provided to low income students. Second, students should remotely attend full day school from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm which can be either recorded or live streamed. The students who require assistance would obtain additional help through the tutoring programme set up by the Ministry of Education. Teachers are our “eyes and ears” into the homes and they would be able to ensure that no child is left behind and abused.

I commend the Ministry of Education, teachers and parents for the excellent work they have done to ensure our children continue to learn. But as a society we cannot pay lip service to educating our children and much more is required. This is where Grenadians who reside in the diaspora and even here in Grenada need to provide assistance such as computers for needy children. We as Grenadians and people of Grenadian descent cannot always look to the government to solve issues; rather we need to come together and help each other for the collective good. My father says, “one-one cocoa fill basket” so we each need to do our part to help our children.

Tim Berners-Lee in The Guardian highlighted the importance of internet access for continued success in the article, Covid-19 makes it clearer than ever: access to the internet should be a universal right. Today, the internet is the great equaliser to lift our children out of poverty through an education. Corporations such as internet providers also have a social responsibility to provide assistance to ensure each child on the tri-island state has internet access because it speaks of being a good corporate citizen.

With the continued fight for racial equality due to the death of George Floyd we also need to demand equality in education for our children. That education begins at the home with our parents using social media as a tool to educate their children so that as one nation we can really live up to the words of our national anthem, “…Heads, hearts and hands in unity to reach our destiny….May we with faith and courage aspire, build, advance as one people, one family…”

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. She practices in several areas of law with expertise in the area of Family Law particularly domestic violence and child abuse.

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