With school reopening just 11 days away, scrap iron workers have been complaining they have no money to buy schoolbooks for their children.
But Social Development Minister Donna Cox says the scrap iron workers can apply for grants under her ministry, including through the Sowing Empowerment through Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Programme.
“Anyone can apply for our grants, including the SEEDs grant, which is a grant for small business entrepreneurs to start a business or to grow a business,” Cox said.
The grant offers $15,000 for goods and $7,500 to facilitate skills training at a recognised, accredited institution, with funds being paid directly to the training institution.
Asked whether the Government was considering giving a uniform and book grant to help struggling parents, Cox said uniform and book grants are only given in cases of disasters.
Meanwhile, general secretary of the Santan Dharma Maha Sabha, Vijay Maharaj, yesterday said in all SDMS schools, book fairs were held to support children in need. He said students were given a day to bring in their old schoolbooks, sell them to other students and use the money to buy their new schoolbooks from other students.
Maharaj said bookstores like Charrans and Mohammed’s Bookstores have been working with the SDMS to supply books at cheaper prices for students. He said uniforms are also purchased in bulk. Maharaj said the SDMS remains concerned about students dropping out of school and has been doing its best to support students.
At Shiva Boys’ Hindu College, principal Dexter Sakal said the school’s bookfair was a resounding success. He said many students were able to get their books in time for the new school term.
At San Fernando TML Primary School, principal Wahida Mohammed-Narine said a uniform drive has been ongoing to assist parents.
“We are assisting students with booklists as well. Parents and teachers are willing to buy books and uniforms for students. We sent out information to teachers and those parents in need can communicate privately to get support,” she said.
She also said that See-Vu Optical has partnered with the school to support students who need glasses.
“We have funds available for parents in case a child needs glasses, during the term. Some parents and teachers have donated cheques to finance students so if a child is unable to go to a doctor once we see it’s a genuine case we will assist,” she said.
On Monday, Opposition MP Opposition MP Vandana Mohit called on the Government to help parents with books and uniforms.
She said numerous appeals for help have been made to her office.
Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin also said people in her constituency were struggling to feed their families and prepare their children for school.
She also called on Minister Cox to assist families who lost their jobs, saying dozens of families were adversely impacted by the shutdown of the scrap iron industry.
During scrap iron protests this week, several workers complained that they had no money to buy books. Ramesh Ramsaroop said he was worried about the future of his children, aged ten and seven. Another parent, Aaron Sylvester, said the Government did hundreds of workers a grave injustice when they shut down the scrap iron industry with no regard for 30,000 people. He said many workers had left a life of crime to earn an honest dollar.