April 12, 2011 – Hamilton
What began as a class project quickly turned into a quest for childcare.
A group of second-year social service students took it upon themselves to promote change not just for their benefit but also for their little ones.
“It was definitely getting pregnant last summer and not knowing what I as going to do,” explains Laura Herbert when asked how this project came about. “[Was] I going to have to quit school because of childcare or was I going to have to have him tag along with me to classes, because he was due in February and school isn’t over until April.”
And that’s exactly what Herbert has been doing since having her child seven weeks ago. Every day she travels to school by bus and attends her classes with her son, Thomas. She attempts to balance the many challenges of rearing a child while being a fulltime student.
“There’s no change table [at Mohawk],” says Herbert. “I just have to change him where ever I am. If he went right here I would literally get on the floor and change him right in front of you because I’m not going to go into the bathroom and getting down on the bathroom floor to change him in there.”
Herbert says the barriers don’t stop there. Students already lack the funding to put themselves through school, let alone raise a child, pay for transportation and find the funding to put their child in daycare long enough to attend school. She says it’s an issue of accessibility, which prevents lots of students from continuing their education or even starting it.
The fact is Mohawk had childcare in the past but terminated the service in 1995 because of provincial cuts to funding. Currently Mohawk offers a family resource centre in the F Wing, which acts as a babysitter while you stay and do your homework. However, because of its varied hours of operation, Herbert and her classmates find it insufficient.
Mohawk says childcare simply boils down to a lack of funding.
“The cost of a college running a daycare as opposed to private daycares … was incredibly different,” says Mohawk’s Vice President of Student Services, Wayne Poirier, who explained why the service was discontinued. “In colleges, [funding] was a lot higher than it was in other areas. There are no funding sources for daycare from the provincial government in an educational setting.”
Through their hard work, Herbert and her classmates have convinced Mohawk and The MSA to take a second look at childcare.
In a meeting with Poirier, Herbert and two of her group members, Morgan Elliott and Shana Coolen, proposed the possibility of adding a small ancillary fee to tuition to help subsidize a college owned daycare service.
“There is absolutely no debate in terms of the value,” says Poirier. “As educators we’re very supportive of early childhood education because it’s so essential … [Mohawk] is completely open to reviewing it. There are some challenges that need to be considered in terms of all that but there are some models out there that work and if we can get the student body on our side it would certainly make it a lot more feasible.”
McMaster and York University currently have daycare models in place that utilize the student body as a source of funding. Mohawk says they will be looking at those daycare models when researching its feasibility.
To raise awareness for their project, Herbert and her classmates gave out homemade pins and asked students to sign their petition. During their campaign, they educated listeners on the difficulties students face as a young parent. Surprisingly, most students thought such a service already existed at the college and were shocked to discover otherwise.
In one day, the group was able to get over 470 signatures in support of bringing childcare to the college. Some students even left comments on the petition saying “A MUST HAVE” and “This would keep Mohawk College accessible.”
With graduation around the corner, Herbert and her classmates are hopeful that future generations of students might have a chance to benefit from something they won’t be around to see it.