Emotions run high as education cash grant handed out in Essequibo
The government on Wednesday began distributing the education cash grant, giving each child in the public school system $19,000.
The distribution began in Region Two on the Essequibo Coast where an estimated 12, 000 school children will benefit from the initiative. Many were moved to tears on collecting their grants.
“My grandchild doesn’t have anyone, just me,” said Tagewanttee Doolarie.
On July 22, 2012, her daughter Rohanie Tagewanttie was murdered by her husband who later took his own life. They left behind a five-year-old son who is now cared for by Doolarie.
She works as a neighbourhood Police to make ends meet. Asked what the $19,000 cash grant means for her, she broke down in tears.
“I does be glad for the little help for him, because I cannot afford a computer to give him and he is a Grade 9 child.
“At one time in the previous government, he [her grandson] used to get public assistance but just like that they cut it off.
“So, it’s hard for me. I am glad I get a little help.”
The story repeated itself over and over as the cash grant began to be distributed on the Essequibo Coast, where $225 million will be distributed in three days.
Donna Ramascindo searched out Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand to express her appreciation for the initiative.
“I am very, very thankful because I have four kids in the school system,” she said. She is slated to receive $76,000.
“It’s a great help. It’s a huge, huge, huge help for me. I can’t tell you how grateful I am,” she told Manickchand.
Ramascindo said the cash grant will help her to buy a computer and printer for her children to use for their school work. While it is an education cash grant, the government is not dictating to parents what they should do with the money.
“Anything…anything that could serve their children. There are so many different needs that families have,” Manickchand stated.
For example, she said on the Essequibo Coast, the Learning Channel was down for two years, so if parents want to use the money to help buy a television, so children can benefit from the range of educational programmes, that would be fitting.
She added: “If a family chooses to buy for each child a [electronic] tablet and keep the change for something else – that’s in service to their children.
“If a family choose to invest in internet in their homes – that’s in service to their children.
“If a family chooses to build another bedroom because it makes everyone else comfortable in the house – that would be in service to their children!”
Teachers are integrally involved in the distribution of the cash grant and they are doing so without complaint.
“We know the benefit of this Because We Care grant,” said Nicola Matthews, the Regional Education Officer for Region Two.
“So, the teachers are in full support. They are assigned to various rooms and they are doing what they have to do. I am so grateful for those teachers. So far, I have no problems with our teachers,” she stated.
One of those teachers is Roweena Valenzuela, the headteacher of the Cotton Field Secondary School.
She said all the teachers she asked to support the initiative turned out. Valenzuela explained why the cash grant programme matters for the students who attend her school.
“I have children who are coming out from homes where there is abject poverty and the grant is going to be a real boost for them,” she stated.
At the Aurora Primary School, serving the catchment area of Good Hope/Pomona on the Essequibo Coast, 1,000 students are eligible to receive the cash grant.
On the ground was Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall.
“Based on the feedback so far, parents have indicated they were looking out for it. We’re operating in a COVID environment, where the impact has had debilitating effects on the regional economy – jobs have been affecting, money wasn’t circulating.
“So $225 million into small villages is great. We put money into villages and that money circulates and that’s how villages grow,” Dharamlall stated.
The cash grant will be distributed across Region Two until Friday. Apart from the Essequibo coast, distribution teams will be in the lakes and all nine communities of indigenous peoples and the Pomeroon River.
In total, $3.2 billion will be distributed across the country in the coming weeks.