No child left behind

Despite not having basic amenities like electricity, a 35-year-old single mother of Toco considers herself rich, not financially, but with love from her three children who she is hoping will have a brighter future than hers.

Shantelle Gittens lives in a two-bedroom wooden house, tucked away on Galera Road, Toco, with her three children, Shalonda, 16, Shem, 13 and Sharvelle, 8.

Gittens, a security guard with MTS, spends four days a week away from her children as she stays at an apartment in Port-of-Spain, close to the Ministry of Planning and Development where she works.

Her three children stay back with their grandparents.

“I work four days—two days, two nights and two off and I come home as I get my off so I could spend all my time with them,” she told Guardian Media during an interview at her home.

She said she is grateful to have a flow of income which allows her to feed her children and provide them with basic school supplies. However, Gittens admits she has had to dig deeper into pockets to purchase cell phones and internet packages so that her children can participate in online classes. Currently, Sharvelle, a standard-two pupil, does not have a device to use.

“I ain’t reach that stage yet to get a next device for them,” she said.

She added, “I am just watching to see how things go. I would say with my children when I do work and I get paid I will tell them what I have to do for this month and this is what I need to do for the next month and let’s see how I could navigate to get whatever they need.”

Gittens said while she gets support from friends and family in many ways, she has not asked for help to purchase a device for Sharvelle.

According to her, “I think it has somebody else who is less fortunate than me so I never went to ask and I don’t think I would go just so until I see everybody get first.”

Expenses aside, Gittens said she is looking forward to the return of in-class learning.

“With Shalonda, my big daughter, I think she is doing whatever she could but I think my two others still need attention from the teacher,” she lamented.

In between work, Gittens said she checks up on her children during their online classes and after school hours to make sure they do their homework before nightfall since there is no electricity. She noted that even in the darkness, they have found light.

“So normally we will have the lamp inside and a flambeau outside or sometimes no light outside and you enjoy the scenery according to if it is a full moon or whatever, and I enjoy it I am not going to lie, even though it is something these children want,” Gittens said.

Recharging their devices means a trip up the track to the grandparents’ home using a generator.

There may be no electricity in their home, but Gittens noted her children are charged with the energy needed to succeed and while she will not ask anyone for help, she will not turn away anyone willing to do so.

She said she looks forward to the day when she will be able to work closer to home so that she will be able to spend more time with her family.

Gittens ended the interview advising families to remember, “there is somebody out there who do not have a work, you have $5 and they might have nothing so thank God for everything.”