VIDEO: Children having children contributing to poverty

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY Observer senior reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

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FINANCIAL analyst Karen Fitz Ritson has pegged Jamaica's rising poverty level to the shrinking age of parents.


Speaking at the weekly Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's head office in Kingston yesterday, Fitz Ritson — chief executive officer of Fitz Ritson and Associates, a professional training institute — said the issue of children having children must be tackled if poverty alleviation efforts were to have any success at all.


"... In Majesty Gardens, the ages of the parents are 16 to 19; remember that their children are between three and five years old, so they (parents) are starting having children from 13 years onwards. In Waterhouse, the parents are between 18 and 24. In Mountain View the parents, mainly the mothers, are from 20 upwards and Stony Hill, it's mixed," she said.


Fitz Ritson said even the attitude and aptitude of the children to learning was linked to the parental age factor, a conclusion she drew from one- on-one interaction with the population in question.


"They are slowest in Majesty Gardens because these parents are children themselves. The attention span of the children and parents are phenomenally low," she argued, noting that this was also an indicator of poor diets and testimony to the fact "that the parents really cannot manage to have these children".


She added: "Instead of our governments talking about building more schools, how about if they strive to alleviate that problem because 20-year-old parents are going to have four more children before they are 30. Where are the resources going to come from in terms of the health and educational and medical system to support this type of thing?


"If we are going to deal with poverty we need to address our family planning in a very strategic and aggressive way," Fitz Ritson said yesterday.


Additionally, she addressed a more pressing aspect of the issue.


"If we have 12-year-old children having children why are their parents not being brought to book; why aren't the persons who are getting these young girls pregnant not being held to accountability?


"We can get esoterical about all these macro influences that we should look at to deal with the poverty, but I am not going to pretend. This is where we need to tackle. We need to get to the crux of the matter and solve that problem and then we start talking about how we are going to allocate resources to improve the other areas," she said.


Weighing in on the situation, Dr Adrian Stokes, vice-president for product development at Scotia Investments, pointed out that poverty will not be eliminated by or through social programmes like PATH (Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education).


"One of the reasons people are poor is because they have low levels of capital, so their earning power is very low to minimal. You don't solve that problem through social programmes, you solve that problem through increasing the level of human capital and you do that through training and education," he said, noting that another factor was "a dysfunctional education system which operates like a conveyor belt".


At the same time, analyst Dennis Chung said Jamaica had missed one important factor in all its planning.


"One of the indices we have failed to look at in this country as a guiding tool is the human development index; for example, Jamaica has had economic growth since 1972 but the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita in 2007 was 90 per cent of what it was in 1972, which means that even though you are growing you are not really improving the individual lot of everyone because your population rate is growing at a much faster rate than your GDP," he argued.


"In my view Jamaica has always had a welfare state. We have always sought to resolve poverty issues by giving someone a fish rather than dealing with the economy," he said.


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