Mohit: Government must help vulnerable children return to school

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit during a debate in Parliament in 2020. File photo/Office of the Parliament. –

With less than two weeks before the new school term reopens, Opposition MP Vandana Mohit said her office has been besieged by families seeking help to purchase school books and uniforms so their children can get an education.

From the United National Congress (UNC) platform on Monday night, Mohit made an appeal for government to help vulnerable families who, she said, were struggling to put food on their tables, much less attend to their children’s back-to-school needs.

She called on Social Development Minister Donna Cox to assist families who lost their jobs and are yet to buy books for their charges, 12 days before the school term reopens.

She repeated a call by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar for a one-time uniform grant for vulnerable families, which had not elicited a response from government.

“Yet they preach youth and youths are our future. This year I got the most request for assistance regarding back to school over any of the years I have served before.

“Since last week, I have been looking at book lists, after book lists after book lists. I am not helping just to get votes.”

She said her assistance was meant to prevent people from making a decision as to whether to put food on the table or buy books to ensure their children benefited from an education.

Her Couva North colleague, Ravi Ratiram also focused on the failing education system, from the cancellation of the laptop programme, dismantling of the GATE programme, reduction in the number of government scholarships, to the large percentage of SEA students who scored below 50 per cent.

“Great is the failure of the PNM,” Ratiram said, reworking the PNM’s mantra.

On the issue of improved water supply to Brickfield and surrounding areas in his constituency, he referred to Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales recommitment to the project at last October Budget Standing Finance Committee meeting.

In May, 2022, when an update was requested, Gonzales responded that the project was due to commence in two to three weeks, and the third phase of the Appoo Settlement was due to commence in one month’s time.

Ratiram said his office made enquiries of WASA on Monday and were informed that those projects were yet to go out for tender.

Although he joined with farmers in a protest outside the Agri Investment Forum Expo II held over the weekend, Ratiram said he was glad farmers had an opportunity to showcase their products but he said there were adversities in the sector that craved urgent attention.

Ratiram showed several video clips of the damage flooding had wreaked on certain farmers and their livelihood. He said farmers were denied proper access roads, incentives, safety and security against praedial larceny and piracy, for fisherfolks.

He accused the Commissioner of State lands of attempting to “bully” some farmers out of their plots of land that were inaccessible due to flooding or poor roads.

As the country prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary of Independence, Ratiram opined, “we are still far from being independent.

“It is only when a country can feed itself, that we can be independent. In order to realise true independence, we need to be free of Keith Rowley and the PNM Government.

“So, Prime Minister Rowley, for this Independence Day, I ask you to free us.

“Free us from crime and praedial larceny. Free us from geographic discrimination. Free us from your government’s abuse. Free us from your nepotism and corruption. Free us from a Cabinet that is filled with dishonesty by saying everything and doing nothing.”