— distributed through ‘Because We Care’ grant
As at Friday, July 30, 2021, the Government of Guyana, as part of its ‘Because We Care’ cash grant, has disbursed some $1.5 billion to thousands of families all across the country, according to a social media post from Education Minister, Priya Manickchand.
This represents almost 50 per cent of the overall $3.2 billion that has been set aside for distribution to some 172,000 pupils and students within Guyana’s public school system. As part of the programme, each child will receive a grant of $15,000, which will be added to the existing School Uniform and Supplies Grant of $4,000, bringing the total to $19,000 per child.
Minister Manickchand had made it clear that the monies are not limited to just the purchase of school supplies and uniforms, but whatever is necessary for the well-being of children. In an interview with the Department of Public Information earlier in the month, Manickchand gave an example of how families may need to expend their monies in different ways to enable the academic advancement of their children. “A mother stood up and said that she is going to buy a black tank with her grant because with a black tank, her children can get water in the house, and they don’t have to come out at nights when they are studying to use water downstairs. They would no longer have to get up early in the morning to fetch water upstairs. So, people use it for different sort of reasons, but it will be to the benefit of the children and to the family,” the minister posited.
She had explained that in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recent unprecedented floods, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government had recognised the challenges and constraints faced by parents and guardians of school-aged children, and wanted to ensure that struggling families receive some needed assistance. As a result, the administration, moved to reinstate the grant which was initiated by the PPP/C government prior to it demitting office in 2015. However, when the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) administration assumed leadership of the country, the programme was quashed. When the party returned to office in August 2020, the programme was reinstated and increased from the previously existing $14,000. This move was heavily criticised by some members of the main APNU+AFC opposition, which went as far as to host a picketing demonstration outside of the Ministry of Education office on Brickdam, Georgetown.
Notwithstanding the protest, distribution of the grants commenced throughout the country, and from all indications, parents and guardians are happy to be receiving the monies. “We know that parents make sacrifices every day for their children and if we can help you by giving what we can afford, then we believe that we can put these children on a pedestal that nobody can remove them from,” minister Manickchand previously commented.
Responding to the opposition’s criticisms, the education minister highlighted how “bizarre” it is that “Any person, or political party or any of their affiliates would object to Guyana’s families being assisted with $19,000 per child.”
Manickchand had particularly criticised opposition Member of Parliament, Coretta McDonald for attempting to use her role as an executive member of the Guyana Teachers’ Union to encourage teachers against assisting with the countrywide distribution exercise. It would appear as though teachers have not heeded the calls, since many teachers have been participating in the programme.
REALITIES OF GRASSROOTS
Manickchand had insisted that the government’s decision to resuscitate the programme was not made in a vaccum, but by engaging and understanding the needs and realities of grassroots Guyanese. “You see, the issue becomes not knowing what our families are going through, and if you don’t know that, you can’t serve them,” minister Manickchand posited.
She stated categorically that unlike some personalities, neither she nor the government hold the view that any of the $3.2 billion is wasteful money. “Could we do more with $3 billion? Of course! But you are important to us; your children are important to us, and that will remain that way,” Manickchand had previously emphasised.
The Ministry of Education had said that the parents or guardians of children in the public school system from nursery to secondary level are to visit the respective schools on the scheduled date to uplift the grant.
“If a parent or guardian fails to uplift the grant on the scheduled date, he/she will be allowed to do so at a later date at the Department of Education for that region or education district,” an earlier statement issued by the ministry said.
This later date, according to the ministry, will be announced at the appropriate time, but will be after the entire exercise has concluded. To this end, parents are encouraged to make every effort to uplift the cash on the scheduled dates.
Parents or guardians are asked to walk with a valid form of identification when going to uplift the grant. The acceptable forms of identification are the National Identification Card, Driver’s Licence or Passport. Persons who do not possess any of these documents can still uplift the grant, but their relationship with the child must be confirmed by a senior official in the community or the school’s headteacher. The Ministry of Education said that it aims to serve each child before September 2021, when the new school term begins.