I find it difficult to find words for the perilous condition of State education at the moment and the levels of ‘relative’ and indeed ‘absolute’ poverty children endure in 2018. The government proclaims that its major priority is to defend its people. For me that’s not simply about warfare but its about defending dignity, disease, hunger and poverty amongst the population. We live in a market economy where the most vulnerable and also those who are indeed working full time on poverty wages are suffering from extreme levels of poverty, indebtedness and lack of hope. The phrase, ‘pays to work’ sounds rather hollow to a family that is struggling on minimum wages and earns enough just to tip over the threshold for access to social security benefits to help out. The safety net of social security is no more in this country. The debacle over universal credit tells the story that our legislators are not in touch with the reality of life and the plight of tens of thousands of families living on the edge, disenfranchised from society norms and finding themselves destitute.
The impact of this on children is quite profound and people who work in schools witness not just the joy of children being happy and learning but support children unwashed, wearing same clothing for days on end, hungry, smelling and bereft of dignity not due to neglect but due to poverty. It is common in schools for teachers, often out of their own funds to help with the following:
- sanitary products
- shower gel
- tangle free brushes
- clothes including shoes, jackets jumpers
- bus fares
- Christmas presents
- Birthday cakes
Why do teachers provide this ’emergency service?’. Because they care. They believe that children MUST have dignity. They believe that all children should be ready to learn free from the worries of hunger, being cold and smelling.
Our government should hang its head in shame at the levels of child poverty.We truly as a nation have gone backwards since the austerity times of 2008 and the signs for the future can best described as ‘desperate’. Thank you teachers.