A number of people have already criticised the decision of the Government to restrict access to free daycare to Bermudians only, excluding foreigners who fall within the recently worked out poverty line.
Daycare in our present society is a right and not a priveledge. It falls within that category of rights that all citizens and residents of our island should have access to regardless of price, namely quality education, quality healthcare (with an emphasis on preventative care), quality shelter and basic foodstuffs and clean water. Sadly much of these remain unobtainable today for many of our working poor, despite living in what we are so often told is one of the richest countries in the world. Yes, our worst conditions are hardly as bad as those found in poorer countries, but if cannot be denied that in general in Bermuda in the early 21st Century, access to ‘quality’ education, healthcare, daycare, shelter and even foodstuffs, is largely determined to ones ability to pay.
While it is no doubt the case that many of the working poor in Bermuda are Bermudians (and this is sad in itself that we still have working poor), it cannot be denied that there are guest workers who are also effectively working poor, who face the same problems as working poor Bermudians, but whose problems are compounded by the fact they are foriegners here without access to some of the support networks Bermudians in their conditions have. Furthermore, they are often confronted with stereotypes and racial discrimination. I am thinking here of the poor Portugeuse, the poor Filipinos, the poor sub-continent East Indians and the like. [Most of the anglo-euro-americans do not fall within the working poor…]
Access to daycare should be a right of all residents in Bermuda, regardless of income. Priority should go to those who need it but do not have the means to acheive it, with a phased introduction to of free quality daycare for the working poor irrespective of their nationality. That the number of foriegn workers who may fall into this category is relatively small only makes it even more repulsive that they are singled out for this discrimination – the fact that they are mostly Asian guest workers could even lead to accusations of racial discrimination quite frankly.
These leads to a question of the xenophobic tendencies latent in our society. Most of these do have some basis in very real fears, such as the fact that the foriegn workers are willing to work for lower wages and thus depress the overall wages of the working class, or of a feeling of being a minority in ones own land, or in the case of some guest workers, a reaction to cultural imperialism. But the guest workers are more often similar victims, and the real villains are the capitalists that bring them in to divide and conquer (a classic example is the bringing in of Azorean peasants following emancipation to break the demands of an emancipated Black working class). Xenophobia only benefits the capitalists and divides the workers.
It is necessary to combat the growing trends of xenophobia in our society before we see its evolution into the xenophobic riots seen recently in South Africa, albeit on a smaller scale in our island.
Its not about UBP or PLP. Its about basic human rights and doing what’s right. And providing quality daycare on the basis of need alone and not nationality is an example of that.