Economic and social disadvantage, in many cases, translates to academic disadvantage. Schools and non-profits are working to break the cycle, but amid the impact of COVID-19 the challenges of poverty and social disruption are becoming greater even as the need for high-level education grows.


在锁定的狗日内,Michelle Myles在她的手机上保持了密切的信誉。

在周日她将增加500 mb和清华rsday she would be screening calls to ensure she had enough data left for her 8-year-old daughter Miska to attend online classes the next day.


“你知道如果你WhatsApp调用你的信用goes fast, so you have to watch it.”




But lack of access to technology – an obvious imperative when lessons are being delivered digitally – is far from the only area in which economic disadvantage translates to academic inequality.

Myles and her daughter went for a time without proper access to power and water.

Their living conditions have improved, but Myles, who works at hotel Locale, which has now converted to cater to long term residents, lost shifts in the aftermath of the pandemic and making rent on her new apartment in West Bay is a monthly challenge.

Making progress

In those circumstances, it can be difficult to prioritise education, but Michelle and Miska are making progress.


Miska Myles has come up two grade levels since joining the MER program.


The goal of the initiative, says Tara Nielsen of ARK, is to give youngsters from less-privileged backgrounds, who are falling behind in school, intensive support to help them to catch up.

Myles is happy to see her daughter’s progress.


Every night, she sits at the kitchen table with her daughter and helps her with her homework.


“I want her to get a scholarship so she can go further in education. She says she wants to be a doctor – if you want to be a doctor your education has to be to the top standard.”

Breaking the cycle


There was a long waiting list of children in need of support, she says, adding, “I would say it is in the hundreds.”

Four out of 10 children in Cayman enter high school without reaching the expected level for their age group in English or maths, according to the 2019 Education Data Report.

The concept for the MER programme began with the work ARK does to support families with housing challenges.


Tara Nielsen of Cayman Acts of Random Kindness

Nielsen says she has seen many examples of children growing up, falling behind in school, dropping out, suffering the same employment challenges as their parents and coming back to ARK as young adults looking for help with food and housing.

Investing in education early enough, she believes, can break that cycle and prevent greater costs to government and non-profits in the long run.

Some parents, she says, are working hard to provide the best for their children. But their circumstances mean they need a little extra support to keep up academically with families that have better resources.

Fighting for a better future

As a single father of three girls since the breakdown of his marriage, Dennis Campbell is grateful for whatever help he can get.

He wants his daughters to be able to realise their dreams of being a doctor, a vet and a marine biologist. He is hustling every day to put food on the table, clothes on their backs and to ensure they are safe and happy. Education is one more thing to manage.


His youngest daughter, Destiny, 8, is one of the newest students to be admitted to ARK’s tutoring programme. She and her sisters Carol-Ann, 13, and Dejah-Lee, 12, are also involved in the charity’s robotics club.


It was a busy place during Dennis’ childhood. His mother and grandmother fostered scores of children between them over the years.


“There would be a knock on the door in the night and it would be the police with a baby.”

The house is quieter now.


“I’m working hard, holding my job, trying to do everything I can for my girls,” he said.

In the mornings he presses their uniforms, gets their breakfast and makes sure they make it safely to school before he goes off to his own job as a courier at RBC.


When he comes home, sometimes the girls are there before him. The family circumstances have made them grow up quickly and they have learned to do a lot for themselves, helping with the cooking, cleaning and the laundry.


“I get home and they say ‘Daddy how was your day, did you eat today, sit down, relax’ – they help me so much.”

Sometimes money is tight, but the family is getting by.

“即使我们分享一盘食物用四叉 - 每个人都吃,每个人都睡觉,”他说。

Amid the challenges of a divorce and money struggles, Dennis says he is happy to have some support for his children’s education.




Positive role models

The programme also provides a mentor, who can act as a kind of aunt or ‘big sister’ to the girls, says Nielsen.

The aim is to give them positive role models and to broaden their horizons about what they can do with their lives.

The core belief at the centre of ARK’s programme is that many of the academic challenges faced by students in Cayman’s schools are linked to social and economic challenges.



She believes the programme is barely scratching the surface of the problem.

“There is so much demand for us to roll out the programme across all schools, but we only have funding for so many students,” she says.





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