The head of the Community Relations Branch (CRB) of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force in the south is making a clarion call to the Ministry of Education to put a system in place to prevent parents from using the monies given to them under the One-Time-Bursary-Assistance programme, for no other purpose than what it is intended.
“Some of the parents use the money to drink, gamble…You go to the slot machines you find some of them there,” CPl Silvina James told this reporter in an interview.
Under the programme, $500 is given to each parent of a child who enters Form 1 at a secondary school after passing the Common Entrance exams. The programme was introduced under the former administration to ease the financial burden on parents with children attending secondary schools.
According to James, because of her experience working with young people, she is aware of some of the issues that are affecting them.
“As a CRB officer working in schools, I have first-hand knowledge of what is affecting young people. I have observed that some parents who never go to the schools their children attend are always the first to go to collect the $500,” James said.
She added: “Some of those students spend all their lives in foster homes, and the only time their biological parents know them is the day the financial assistance is given…”
She lamented that as a result of the situation, some children go to school without breakfast, proper uniforms and only a few books.
She said the money may not be adequate, but can be used in ways to assist the children in their education.
James feels that one of the ways the problem can be addressed is by giving the parents vouchers to buy their children’s need from selected business houses, rather than cash.
According to the CRB officer, if such a problem is not addressed sooner, rather than later, some of those affected children will drop out of school and turn to crime.
James said if the problem persists something should be put in place to have the delinquent parents pay back the money to the state.
She said she has already informed the Ministry of Education of her concerns and the need to have the matter addressed as soon as possible.
And she is also calling on parents to use the money for the purpose it is intended.