Single parents appeal for support

GBC Parent Association calls for more accommodations for single-parent students 

“The basic day to day life of a single parent is getting up extremely early with your children to bring them to daycare,” said Shana Kealey, founder of the George Brown College (GBC) Parent Association. 

Early 8 a.m. classes force these parents to be at daycare and at college at the same time, or have less sleep time and find childcare offered in the earlier hours of the day if that can work. 

“For me, that’s how I tend to run my day, everything has to be done by numbers,” said Silver Ofoegbu, business of fashion student, entrepreneur, and single mother of five.

Ofoegbu rigorously follows a schedule of waking up at 3 a.m. to leave home for school by 6:30 a.m.

She travels from Brampton to get to her 8 a.m. class, downtown Toronto, after dropping her kids off at daycare.

Ofoegbu says that “everything has to be done at a certain time” and that if something goes wrong, “it tumbles downhill from there, and then I’m running late and I try to play catch up.”

Megan Kinch, a student in GBC’s electrical apprenticeship program and a single mother, shares a similar experience, beginning her work day at 6:30 a.m. 

According to Kinch, reserved spots at campus daycares would make the situation much easier for single parents who attend the college. 

GBC operates a year-round child-care service, with 12 centres across Toronto.

These centres are part of the school of early childhood education and provide a space for students to develop skills in child-care. 

However, this service is not exclusive to GBC students. Anyone living in the city can utilize these child-care centres. 

“There are no rights to accommodation if you’re a parent and you have caregiving needs,” Kinch said about the services offered at GBC.

In fact, she believes that the college should make accommodations for single parents, similar to the way services are provided for people with disabilities.  

The GBC Parent Association was, “initially going to be the single parent’s association” founded by Kealey and another single parent to address the challenges of juggling caring for a child and studying. 

Through this group, Kealey has heard stories from many single parents who attended the college. 

She said there is a systemic problem because all single parent students have the same story with the same issues. 

She added that although there are success stories, there are also unfortunate ones. 

Kealey noted that it’s common for parents to avoid approaching others about their needs for accommodations in instances where they may not be able to arrange for child-care such as on PA days.

“The majority of profs will be accommodating because there is no sort of blanket policy or blanket approach, however, it can vary and there have been profs that have been difficult,” said Kealey.

While there are mental health, first nations, and other entry programs for marginalized groups at the college, Kealey suggested there should be one for single parents with workers to check in on parents throughout the year.

“Without the dedicated support to understand all that they (single parents) are balancing, they very quickly get the feeling that this is not a place for me,” she said. 

Requests for comment from the college were not returned by press time. 

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Single parents appeal for support