The lengths to which this administration will go to humiliate the Guyanese people. The latest affront – apart from the mess that the Attorney-General has landed himself in – has to do with the handout of ten thousand dollars to needy parents of public school students. To see the long lines of sometimes unruly parents and guardians makes one want to weep at what this country has become.
On the East Coast at the Hope Secondary School, parents endured the hot sun and sweltering heat awaiting the arrival of no lesser personage than the beleaguered Attorney General. Imagine in the face of allegations of impropriety, the government cannot resist politicizing even the paltry giveaway from the public purse. But what was inexplicable nay unacceptable was the level of disorganization that attended the exercise at various schools, so-much-so that tempers flared and boiled over.
The sad thing is that the discomfort did not end at that stage, but carried over to the Western Union depots which had the franchise to cash the vouchers. The reason that prevented the splitting of the money transfer between Western Union and another remittance services is best known to the braniacs at the education ministry.
It is not quite clear why anyone in their right mind would believe that ten thousand dollars can suffice for the upkeep of a child for a year. Why not offer that amount for each of the school terms annually? Better still, if that grand sum is all that the Guyanese people’s tax dollars can afford, why not phase the payout so that parents and guardians suffer the minimal amount of inconvenience. People had to leave their places of work to appear like mendicants before the mighty rulers. If the whole arrangement did not push the bounds of imbecility then that term was redefined while the nation slept. The thoughts and suggestions of Mr. Nowrang Persaud bear consideration.
Perhaps because there have been instances when some of the images accompanying the slogan ‘because we care’ have been associated with confusion, made it an automatic shoo-in for what turned out to be a chaotic handout programme. At one Western Union depot on the East Coast there was confusion and near fisticuffs, and the long lines and high tempers were not restricted to schools only, but became a feature at all Western Union outlets.
It is inconceivable that the policy makers hoped that a program of that nature could achieve an increase in schooling levels and regular attendance at school while ignoring the importance for substantial payments. It is to be hoped that an evaluation of the programme would determine whether its predicted impacts are being realized when compared with experimental impact estimates if these are available. Of course there is always the temptation to fit the actual experiences in a frame that speaks to successful implementation and achievement of the policy goals.
Not to take away anything from whatever noble thinking may be behind the scheme, it would be interesting to determine the realities of whether the parents really understand government’s stated intentions for the uses of the cash. From some of the comments made, some parents could not care less about the purpose for which the money was intended. A few inexplicably remarked that they would be going partying with the money.
Not so funny was the fact that not a few of those people considered the entire exercise as a political game to score cheap points and to serve as photo opportunities to be displayed as crowd support for the incumbent administration at the right time. Those parents and guardians who were entitled to vouchers for more than one child viewed the sum collected as an unexpected windfall and planned to use it in ways surely not envisaged in the 2014 budget presentation.
What all of these anomalies indicate is that the Education Ministry should have spent much more time educating parents, guardians and caregivers about the rationale and intention of the planned programme. At the same time, officials should have ensured that all proper and necessary arrangements were in place to avoid the kinds of inconvenience, ignorance, and intemperate behavior that this payout has occasioned.
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