By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THREADBARE, in need of the necessary school supplies and short of food was how social workers described the condition of many children currently on the government’s Social Services welfare programme yesterday.
According to their estimation, this new school year has seen the highest volume of children in need of assistance.
Anja Farquharson, Jensel Watkins and Sharmaine Forbes, guidance counsellors stationed at T G Glover, Albury Sayle and Woodcock Primary Schools appealed to corporate Bahamas and members of the public to contribute in any way possible to help.
They made the call after businessman Paul Smith donated $5,000 to the schools during a special assembly at T G Glover mainly to assist with lunch programmes. The programme provides breakfast and lunch for the students.
“With the downturn in the economy,” Ms Farquharson said, “we have seen a lot more families than usual who would require the assistance of welfare because a lot of parents have lost their jobs and therefore are in need of the assistance much more than in the past.
“Further we assist the students with clothing that means we give those who don’t have proper clothing uniforms and in some instances school supplies because many times they would need books, pens and pencils.
“The government provides a lunch programme and because of the partnership of certain sponsors we are able to feed children who don’t have breakfast and lunch, basically those children who cannot be accommodated by the lunch programme.”
Mrs Forbes recalled an instance in which she assisted a student with only one school uniform. She said having sufficient uniforms to accommodate such students presents a challenge.
“I had a child come in and that child has one uniform. That child has been wearing that one uniform for two weeks. At the school we try to have an extra flow of uniforms. We then ask parents to send back the old uniforms which are in good condition so that it could help those children in need,” she said.
There have also been instances where one of the counsellors has had to contribute personal funds to assist a needy child.
Mr Watkins told The Tribune: “A lot of times they would be wearing their siblings old uniforms. Those are often times threadbare, it’s just there and so sometimes I tend to go into my own pockets to do things if I have to. But the school will assist with that as well. It has been a struggle.”
There are around 40 to 70 welfare students at each school, but the numbers tend to fluctuate, the counsellors said.
Attempts to reach Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin were unsuccessful.