BY: KATHY MCDONALD
It’s three o’clock. This article is late and I am totally revamping the entire message. You see, as is the tradition in my family we went to the largest retail mall in Brampton to get our Santa Family photo. This is something that my husband and I have been doing since the birth of our first child, some nineteen years ago. Today’s experience was different though. As I sat at our meeting point waiting for the various family members to congregate, I witnessed something that shook me to the core. A young well-groomed young black male was discreetly rummaging through the garbage. I watched him eat a minuscule piece of meat from a discarded chicken meal.
So many things went through my mind. Is Brampton, the “capital” of the hidden homeless and youth in poverty? I found myself wondering, how the heck such a well-groomed, well dressed young man ended up rifling through the garbage for food. I wanted to know more but I didn’t have the guts to ask. I went and bought a chicken meal for him and offered it to him. He thanked me, took it and immediately sat down to eat. I wondered about his mental health. I mused about his family and where and what they were doing at that very moment he was stripping the minute morsel of meat off the chicken leg. I speculated what levels of society, government and family failed this individual. I questioned the role the educational system played in this young man’s life. I then reaffirmed my commitment to making sure that all forms of discrimination, systemic biases, and racism are completely eradicated from the PDSB and all educational systems.
I must confess that I actually bought a lotto ticket with the hope of winning enough money to return to the mall hoping to find that young man so I could provide any resource needed to help him through this difficult period of his life. Quite frequently throughout the day, I found myself thinking about this young man, who could easily be my elder son’s age. He is supposed to be having the time of his life learning and laying the foundation for a productive life. While I have no idea what circumstances led him to the garbage can I do know that his story does not have to end there.
I would like to implore parents to pay attention to their children’s mental health and well-being. I would beseech all parents to get involved with all aspects of your child’s life, from the spiritual, mental, physical and educational. Each facet is equally important for the development of the whole child. We are living in an ever-changing, fast pace world that can be very stressful for many. As parents, we need to invest and nurture our most precious commodity, our children. As Jacqueline Kennedy said, “If you bungle your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much”.
Reflecting on 2017 and the Christmas season I can’t help but be hopeful of things to come. With all my optimism comes a sense of duty. It is very important to me to keep hammering home with these articles the importance of parent involvement and parent engagement. These two undertakings are essential and critical to the wellbeing of all children. So please indulge me if sometimes they appear repetitive. Parents, you are essential players in your children’s accomplishments. Parents, guardians and community members, it’s important that you participate, speak up and hold school boards and the Ministry of Education accountable for the educational outcomes of your children.
You cannot be passive and simply leave the educational system to determine the pathways and endeavors that your children participate in. Partner with the school and work together to achieve the best possible educational experience for your child. Most teachers are caring, diligent and are fully invested in your child. However, don’t gamble with your child’s future. The time invested in their educational, mental health and physical wellbeing will be the best investment you could ever make.
2017 saw many strides being made in the educational sector both at the ministerial and board level. The Ministry of Education is proposing making the collection of disaggregated data mandatory for all boards, they are looking at anti-black racism as well as the effects of streaming on radicalized communities. Great work is being done for special education students as well as students in poverty. A lot of these issues cannot be tackled in isolation and there is a greater willingness for all the various branches of government to work together. But a word of caution to parents. Don’t be complacent and think all is hunky-dory. Get involved. If it’s one thing that was reaffirmed to me this past week, it’s usually the loudest voices that get heard and tended to.
As a community, let’s work together to minimize the need for people to be rifling through the garbage for food. I know that the aforementioned scenario does not necessarily reflect on the educational system. However, I think that a sound educational system can all but eliminate such negative experiences. Parents, guardians and community members please journey with me in the upcoming year to make our children have the best educational experience of their academic career. Walk Good, Belle Marché