Authentic Support or Gesture Politics OpEd from OBA C1 Candidate Tia Smith

Like every other parent, my world and my concerns revolve largely around my kids. They drive most of our decisions on a daily basis: food, activities, housing and of course money. They are a large part of what gives me the strength to wake up every morning (and an even larger part of what puts me in my bed exhausted at night).
Food decisions – like what will be for dinner and, in the earlier days, what can I afford for dinner? Activity decisions – scheduling life around their extracurriculars while also finding ways to connect with each other outside of what NEEDS to be done.
Housing decisions – how big or small of a house do we need for three kids and all of their “stuff”. And money is self-explanatory; kids are expensive! Money, unfortunately, is the thread that holds most of this together. We all try to give our children the best lives that we can and the best lives that we can afford. Too often for the parents of Bermuda, this does not match up as closely as we wish.
And this gets all that much harder every single day. I’m not alone in that. Many of us struggle in today’s world.
With the rising costs of food, the rising costs of rent and utilities, and the rising cost of other essentials like clothing, this becomes more and more of a burden. This is never so evident as it is right now, when our kids are about to go back to school. Every parent on this island gets the same look on their face when talking about “back to school”.
Uniforms and school supplies can be very expensive and many parents just cannot take another hit this year. This is never more evident than when you consider the number of clothing and school supplies drives compared to just a few years ago.
The Progressive Labour Party recently announced, as part of its “economic relief package”, a $150 payment to all parents of students enrolled in the public-school programmes. This was said to be an effort to help parents with essentials given the “financial burden encountered annually when preparing to send children back to school”.
The Ministry has said that people can apply for this payment from the week of August 29 for the school year beginning on the 12th. Even if the parents can do so immediately and the deposit into their accounts is immediate, this still gives thousands of parents just under two weeks to use these funds at the three or four stores on island that supply school uniforms and school supplies. This is short timing even if one assumes that everything will go as planned.
I understand and applaud the idea behind this. I repeat: the parents of Bermuda need relief and while this appears not to be clearly thought out and a rather inefficient process, the optics do look good. As long as you don’t look under the hood, that is. If you do, it looks more like a token attempt to quieten the many valid complaints posed by parents regarding school closures, low school grades, teachers having to pay for classroom supplies and gang violence in schools on top of our real-life concerns about how we will pay for everything we need to survive in this world.

Anything that assists parents is desperately needed, but I question whether this is driven more by the Premier’s desire for gesture politics. Our children deserve better than to be a politically convenient afterthought.

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