By William Joseph
The period since Independence may well be described as ‘the guilty years’ for a Nation that has not worked seriously at reducing poverty.
Public policy has skirted the subject, under-educating the poor and under-financing poverty reduction!
So, the womb of poverty remains pregnant from generation to generation. Now, Grenada’s young poor have taken ‘comfort’ in crime, anti-social strikes and lodgings at Richmond Hill! Whereas children in some countries spend their lives in war; here, many children spend their lives in poverty. Even as the evidence mounts and leaders are declared guilty, political parties seeking to form the government are competing over poverty and the youth! Pure madness!
Unfortunately, governments have not recognised that there are various types of poverty. Hence, responses have been inadequate. Nonetheless, the testimonies ring out in a full-blown celebration of poverty at Carlton Junction! The poor are present and they are ready to vote!
Victory is not theirs, but you dare not point your finger at them!
There is ‘habitat poverty’ where housing conditions are bad, sanitation is poor and the surrounding environment is a health risk.
There is also ‘consumption poverty’. Here, wages are low and irregular and food and other basic needs cannot be purchased comfortably. Thirdly, there is ‘education and skill (employability) poverty’.
Lastly, there is ‘dependency poverty’ which feeds on low self-esteem and an instinctive grab onto someone who is believed to be in a position to bring relief, a provider. The poor in this category are victims of their attitude towards life.
Given these observations, ‘fix-it’ policies and programs are needed for each case. Clearly, one could repair a poor man’s house such that he experiences an easing of ‘habitat poverty’, but he is none the better off as the other features of poverty remain locked-in.
The interventions required must include the educational (attitudinal, not classroom), material, spiritual and psychological. Supplying the material depends on money resources. Providing the others call for new thinking.
Together, they shape real opportunities. Opportunities exist only where education and resources meet.
Taking advantage of opportunities require processes and places of empowerment. The latter may be work sites, markets, churches, playing fields, bus terminal, beaches, schools and community centers.
Empowerment requires strong education and governance support systems at grassroots levels in communities, targeting individuals and households and re-socialising the youth.
‘Education for the poor’ must focus on valuing self and others, respect, ambition, sacrifice, understanding the importance of production and building an ownership mentality through small starts.
Poor people must be educated to want more and better; meaning that they must be taught to think change and correct attitudes.
The non-formal education that is advocated can easily be achieved through music, social media and television.
The financial resources can be had from Citizen by Investment revenues. Applying this assured source of financing directly and only to poverty reduction programs will cause us to have something of lasting value to show for selling our badge of national belonging and dignity.
If we fail to confront poverty in this way, daily existence will produce deeper and more wretched scars and poor people will simply be condemned to going nowhere day after day!
Poverty has its own culture and its profiles run painfully across various aspects of life. Many transactions in poor villages are governed by rules and practices unknown to the law, but they are not hidden. Some are rooted in slavery and reinforced by persistent lacking and ignorance.
Whatever the influence, physical brutality (violence) and a rage-producing diet of cussing force-ripe many poor children and disfigure mind, body and soul. Yes! Weep!
‘Responsible Grenada’ must hurry into action. We cannot await the next news report to see the criminal soul of poverty through a blank human face and hold our heads in disbelief. Neither ought we to encourage our politicians to celebrate poverty saying they are testifying to a job well done! Poverty requires dedicated resources and special education. Commitment to doing right is always better than celebration of wrong!