Wednesday September 13th: Dependence on Grace
September 13, 2023
Changes at the Seminary…as new academic year begins
September 13, 2023

Dragging our feet

While much of the population are aware of the presence of Venezuelan migrants in seemingly every community in both islands, the fate of migrant children’s education has not assumed much importance in the minds of most of our people.

If the shoe were on the other foot and our citizens were fleeing hunger, unemployment, and a stark shortage of basic goods and medications, would we be content to have our children deprived of schooling, year after year?

We like to say that children are our future. If we continue to refuse migrant children the basic human right to be educated, our future will not only be bleak, it will be terrifying.

The problems that we face now will be multiplied ten-fold and there will be no turning back from a situation that we see reflected in our own region, in poverty-stricken and crime-ridden Haiti, our sister-nation.

Illiterate, skill-deprived, unemployable children growing into adulthood without the resources to develop their minds, their unique talents and their social consciences and barely able to communicate successfully with English and Creole speakers around them will inevitably stand apart from and turn against the land that gave them living space but no access to public healthcare and schooling from the primary to tertiary level.

Yet, this important consideration aside, how can we, as children of God, not recognise in these children the face of Christ among us?

It is our duty and our privilege to show the same compassion, understanding and loving support that we would want for our own children and for ourselves, were we to be forced by circumstance to live in a strange land.

The Catholic Church has offered available places in its primary schools to some of the more than 4000 migrant children between the ages of 5 and 17 who currently live in our country.

Teachers in these schools have been trained to teach English as a second language and have indicated their willingness to embrace migrant students. The Living Water Community and the La Romaine Migrant Support Group (LARMS) of the St Benedict’s parish have attempted to fill the educational void where they could but this is simply not enough.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Education, must act. The legal constraints that bind innocent children to lives devoid of education and wholesome integration into society must be dealt with a sense of urgency.

There can be no just excuse for the continued dragging of feet that the authorities would not accept for themselves or their children but that somehow is reasonable and acceptable for the children of our neighbours.

Once we accept that we are dealing with human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the inhumane treatment that is being heaped upon these children who are here through no fault of their own—or of their parents.

The disrespect and disparagement that we show when we speak of ‘de Spanish’ and shout at their women as if they were of little worth and not deserving of being treated with dignity, the poor wages that we deem to be enough for their men and women workers, wages that Trinidadians and Tobagonians would not accept, are all manifestations of that same supercilious attitude that we assume when we are dealing with serious issues relating to both registered and unregistered migrants here.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 18:21–35), Jesus reminds us that our Heavenly Father will deal with us as we deal with others. Let us take to heart the teaching that we should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We will be judged by the Christianity or lack thereof with which we treat our neighbours.