Properly funding public education is the only way out for some of province’s citizens

Sask Bulletin
Column: 
January 30, 2020

Let me share a recent personal experience that left me with much to ponder, and one that I’m not likely to forget any time soon. Trust me on this.

Just to be clear, it’s not like I am so cloistered from reality that I have not seen poverty before, and nor do I pretend to be the person with all the answers. Never let it be said I am the smartest one in the room. Hardly.

However, when you have been in this game for as long as I have, it should come as no major revelation that you hopefully gain a reasonable degree of observation. Sometimes you’re also able to go just a little deeper and connect the dots even if they aren’t always in accordance with others.

But this case is as undeniable as it is stark. On my way to a recent interview in Saskatoon, I parked my vehicle on one of the side streets in what can only be described as one of the city’s least-advantaged neighbourhoods in terms of socio-economic status.

Right across from my vehicle were two houses which your eyes were drawn to even if you didn’t intend for it. Suffice to say, they were small and in dire need of repairs. I’m not talking just to make them more attractive but in reality, habitable. No sooner had I convinced myself nobody was living in these dwellings; I saw activity in both.

After the interview and on my return journey to the office, I internalized a list of five very rudimentary factors that I surmised were not available to the poor souls who found themselves occupying these structures (albeit a step or two above those who are homeless I imagine).

In no particular order, here are the factors that I suspected were absent: safe, warm housing; access to nourishment and clothing; employment or prospects thereof; any sort of health plan; or family supports. If in fact they were zero for five, then it is difficult to envision where they would gain access to even one, let alone two, of these basic necessities.

OK, here’s the clincher to this bleak scenario. If you were to find yourself in such a situation of despair, probably the only ticket that might help to pave the way to a better future would be education. Public education, that is.

As long as those who control the purse strings seem content to let the most vulnerable members of our society fall through the cracks, then it will forever be thus, and the chasm will only become more pronounced. And, let’s not forget the situation to which I alluded is not in faraway Africa or any other continent. It’s right here in our backyard and is by no means isolated to one small quadrant that many of us will likely never experience.

Again, not to belabour the point, but equal access to a well-funded public education system with the requisite supports is for once and for all the only decent thing we can do. Anyone who would suggest they don’t have the stomach for an increase in taxes should cast their eyes on the two houses to which I alluded. I can show you exactly where they are.