Economic conditions in the country are wreaking havoc on the ability of many parents and guardians to provide even the most basic school items to their charges.
The dire situation facing many families has been brought to light by a recently-concluded needs assessment by the Barbados National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (BNCPTA) and principals and teachers.
The initiative was undertaken several months after the conclusion of Government’s retrenchment exercise in which some 3,000 public servants were sent home as part of austerity measures.
BNCPTA President Rhonda Blackman estimated that the items needed by students, including books, shoes, school fees, 37 khaki pants and 30 school uniforms, could cost as much as $10 000.
Blackman told Barbados TODAY she was surprised at the extent of the problem.
“The situation is real and these are genuine cases because the teachers would know those cases. That’s why we waited until the beginning of the term so that we could get a true assessment of these students. It is not a case where parents think it is a welfare programme and therefore, ‘I can buy Remy [hair], therefore I can party, therefore I can have my priorities wrong because the PTA will provide’. That is not what it is,” she stressed.
“There are a few students who have not been able to come to school because they don’t have the school clothes and it is telling us how dire the situation is and as a society we need to come together to see how we can assist these families,” she added.
The needs assessment was conducted over a three week period last month at primary and secondary schools across the island.
However, the needs were only identified at five secondary schools and seven primary schools, which Blackman did not identify to ensure confidentiality.
She issued an appeal to corporate Barbados, as well as citizens, to assist affected students.
“It is important that it is understood that the BNCPTA has spearheaded this but what we want to do going forward in the programme is that we would only act as a facilitator and not the major player in the process. We want to embrace our domestic PTA bodies so they can work with their schools and develop the programme within their individual schools,” Blackman explained.
“It would be great if persons could say ‘what does the association need? I can donate X amount’. But if you can only assist one child with one shirt, you have made a difference and that is what is important. [There] is a variety of clothing that we need urgently now.
“Those businesses out there that make uniforms; those companies that sell uniforms, even if you donate one or two, we would readily accept your donation. It doesn’t have to be major . . . so even if you can contribute $20, even if you can contribute $10; if you can contribute a shirt or shirts, we would be willing to accept your contribution,” the PTA head added.