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Poverty affecting our children - guidance counsellor

Published:Thursday | May 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMOrantes Moore
Guidance counsellor of Oracabessa Primary School Patricia White.


Having spent almost two decades working in the education system, high school English teacher-turned-guidance counsellor Patricia White has observed how instability in the local economy affects the behaviour of the children in her care.

As the guidance counsellor at Oracabessa Primary School in St Mary, White believes that financial hardship is the most overarching and influential factor shaping the lives of her students and their families.

Speaking with Family and Religion earlier this week, she said: "I believe the biggest issue affecting families and children today would be poverty and the generational issues of dealing with poverty. By that I mean, if you are born into a poor family, you see poverty, however, there is very little push to go beyond what you see. And so I find there is a repetition of the cycle of poverty. Ironically, I am now assisting children whose parents I taught in high school and when I look at things, very rarely is there much difference in the socioeconomic conditions.

"This affects the children in terms of their self-esteem and ability to socialise and get along with others. It affects their ability to become their best selves because they have already labelled themselves, and inside that limited capacity is where they operate from. So even though you are trying to get them to push beyond where they are, by the age of eight or nine years old, they have already accepted their label as poor, and this is how their life is going to turn out."


A little love


White, who was born in Kingston, but has lived in St Mary for more than 25 years, believes that although deep-rooted, these problem can be, at least, partially remedied with a little love, human capital and educational equipment.

She explained: "There are children I meet that will come with a lot of aggression and hostility, but just some form of affection - a hug, a pat on the head, a rubbing of the shoulder, or a pushing of the body against theirs will break down that demeanour. It's just a defence mechanism they have already put up to fight the world. What they really need is love and some resources because there are children who come to school time and time again without lunch, books, or even shoes to wear.

"In this area, there are a lot of retirees who are at home doing nothing. I would urge them to come and volunteer. Come and spend an hour or two with the children and show them another way because we are quite adept at finding the problem, but a lot of us can become part of the solution if we become involved. Even if it is to volunteer for half an hour, just being around something different from their reality would really help."