Chaos as some 500 parents turn up for school uniform aid
Exercise suspended By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
August 9, 2002

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Chaos erupted in front of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security yesterday morning when some 500 parents, mainly from the East Coast and Georgetown turned up for school uniform assistance.

And because most of them did not qualify for the assistance, they blocked the ministry’s gate, preventing Minister within the ministry, Bibi Shadick’s vehicle from entering the compound. They also became abusive to the security officers and hurled derogatory remarks at some of the ministry’s staff.

As a consequence Shadick discontinued the exercise forthwith yesterday morning, saying that it will remain so indefinitely. Earlier in the year Cabinet had approved some $31.1M for the ministry to embark on school feeding programmes countrywide and also to assist parents who are in difficult circumstances with financial help to purchase school uniforms.

The feeding programmes have been ongoing but since the disbursement of funds for school uniforms began a week ago many of the parents who turned up at the ministry have reportedly been abusive and indisciplined.

Shadick lamented the behaviour of the parents who were mostly women, saying that the Guyanese society has now become grossly indisciplined and disrespectful.

She remarked also that it has now become a norm that whenever someone cannot get something that he or she wants, the next step is to protest and behave unmannerly.

The minister said that neither she nor her staff would allow themselves to be pressured into doing what the parents perceived as right.

Up to late yesterday a group of around 18 parents were still waiting at the gate of the ministry even though Shadick had brought the exercise to a halt.

The minister stated that her ministry had decentralised the exercise and announced this but there were still persons who are ignoring that system and turning up at the gates of the ministry with their demands.

“The ministry had announced that citizens should wait until officials visit their communities to distribute the vouchers, which will make the process easier and more economical since they would not have to travel far distances to the central ministry. But no one is listening, so as from today August 8 the exercise will cease until further notice,” Shadick declared.

She further said that she will be meeting shortly with other officials from her ministry to decide upon an alternative method of distribution.

In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, Shadick outlined that in order for someone to qualify for the help he/she has to be in extremely difficult circumstances, adding that if someone loses a husband or father or even a mother they will be eligible. Besides, she said, if the children’s parents are handicapped in some way or the other or in the case of someone being really poor with many children to care for, that person would qualify for help. “What has been happening though, is that young and old, young men and women who can work are crowding the ministry every day for help. We are catering for those who are really needy and if when our social workers interview them and find out that they are not qualified to be on the difficult circumstances list they will not receive the help,” Shadick declared.

On the other hand, some of the parents to whom this newspaper spoke yesterday said that they in no way prevented the minister from getting into the compound.

One parent said that she and some others were at the entrance to the gate when Shadick arrived and they stepped back allowing her to get in.

Stabroek News understands that upon the minister’s arrival some parents were also in the compound and she put them out.

A parent who travelled all the way from Mahaica complained yesterday that she visited the ministry on Tuesday and was told to return yesterday but when she got there an officer told her that she is not entitled to the assistance.

The woman said that she is very poor and is looking forward for the little help to assist in purchasing school uniforms for her four children.

Shadick had said in an earlier interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA) that among the areas earmarked for assistance in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) are: Albouystown, Buxton, Sophia and Bare Root.

She said that councillors in the areas pinpointed would compile a list of less fortunate persons in the communities. According to the minister, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs is also helping in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine to obtain the names of parents in need. In Regions Two, Three and Ten social workers are assisting while in Region Six, Fizal Jaffarally is helping with the list.

She had said that a voucher would be issued for each child on the list, adding that the parents would have to produce a birth certificate and the child’s report card to show proof of the child’s existence. In addition, Shadick had pointed out that there are three types of vouchers available: Nursery is valued at $1,500, Primary $2,000, and Secondary is worth $3,000.

The vouchers, according to the minister, were to be encashed at Guyana Stores Limited, Sookraj and Sons or Alim Shaw General Store.