As former sugar workers in Berbice continue to face financial struggles following the closure of two estates for almost one year, the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) provided 75 of their children with $10,000 each towards their education.
The money was part of a fund that the SVN, a Hindu school on the West Coast of Demerara, recently launched with the aim of aiding the “most vulnerable students who have either dropped out of school or at the risk of doing so.”
Students would also be supported through the fund for “at least one academic year starting with the current school term.”
Principal of the school, Swami Aksharananda, along with some sixth form students traveled to Berbice last Wednesday to make the presentation at an event held at Sukhpaul’s Gas Station at Corriverton.
The principal said that with the help of community workers and teachers, some 100 students have already been identified to receive assistance.
The students, mainly from Line Path Secondary, Lutheran High School, Tagore Secondary and Canje Secondary at Rose Hall, Canje qualified for the assistance after filling application forms and providing student verification.
The fund is mainly for high school students but some from the primary level also benefitted from the same amount. The students would also receive more cash “later in the year to complete this term’s commitment.”
According to the principal, SVN saw the need to step in and take action since the workers have not yet received the full severance benefits that they were promised.
“Whatever the politics or economics of the situation, the fact is that the communities [that are] directly dependent on the estates are hurting,” he said.
“We have been following the situation for months now, and it is evident that the crisis is affecting the ability of parents to send their children to school.”
He pointed out too: “Whoever is acquainted with the rhythm of the life on the sugar estates knows that whatever workers save during the harvesting season is used up [during the] ‘out of crop [season]’.”
Swami Aksharananda said: “Funding for the project so far has been provided by SVN itself and its students.
In addition to what the school has put aside, the students have each committed to give one thousand dollars per term for the current school year 2018-19.”
The SVN “wishes to thank Pandit Rangaswami from #73 Village Corentyne, well-known community activist and leader, Mr. Hari Behari, and Mr. Surin Sukhpal for their assistance,” he said.