Parents urged to boycott school-leaving excercise
Graduation rip-off - Parents complain about graduation costs
THE National Parent-Teachers' Association (NPTA) has charged that schools are using graduation ceremonies to raise money, and is urging parents to boycott the school-leaving event.
Everton Hannam, the NPTA president, made the call last week amidst growing complaints from parents about the high costs associated with the events.
"A graduation exercise has, in many cases, become a fund-raising exercise for most of the schools. When I look at what the students get, based on the money they pay, I am inclined to believe that some of them have become fund-raising exercises for those who organise them," Hannam told the Jamaica Observer.
"We have received complaints starting at the primary school and even at the basic school [level] and it's like $6,000 or $7,000 for graduation, and they are getting just a corsage and a certificate. It should not be," Hannam said.
The exorbitant fees being requested for these ceremonies have been a long-standing concern for parents and have even been addressed by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, who has urged parents to try and minimise spending for such events.
However, scores of parents attended graduation exercises at early childhood, primary and secondary schools last week, and more are in preparation mode to attend this week.
Hannam believes nothing will be done to reduce these costs until parents start to protest the payments. The best way he believes parents can do so is to not attend.
"We need to be more proactive and start acting in a more organised and more serious way," he said.
He said the PTAs also have a part to play in ensuring that parents are not being fleeced of their hard-earned money, and as such, the matter of school graduations will be up for discussion at the NPTA annual general meeting this month.
"It might be that some limits will have to be established for the costing of graduations. But the Parent-Teachers' Association will have to become more vocal and more vigilant in opposing these costs that are being imposed on them, and... they will have to become more participatory in the discussion," he said.
One mother, Myzanne Wallace, said she paid $9,000 to see her five-year-old daughter graduate from an inner-city early childhood institution last week, as the school principal refused to reduce the cost, despite protests from parents.
Apart from the $9,000, which she was told was for photos, certificate and the rental of the graduation gown, the mother said she was informed that each of her guests would be required to pay $1,000 in order to attend.
"I honestly wasn't going to send her, but then she was going to be the school's valedictorian and my family was very happy and did not want her to miss that opportunity," said Wallace, whose daughter received a number of trophies for academic achievements during the ceremony.
Wallace said she was told that parents would still need to pay $3,000 to the school to facilitate the school-leaving process and to collect trophies, even if they did not attend the graduation.
Another mother told the Observer that she paid $7,000 to see her son graduate from high school and collect his certificate. However, she left very disappointed as none of the students was given certificates. Instead, they were told to collect them at a later date.
To add to her frustration, the mother said she was also requested to pay an additional $1,200 for photos, which turned out to be of poor quality. She was also told she could pay $8,000 for her son to attend the graduation ball and as much as $22,000 for a school ring.
"I think it is a money-making thing. If you saw what you were getting for your money, it wouldn't be so bad," she fumed.
She has heard the calls for a boycott and has even contemplated this. However, she said, she does not believe it's fair to deprive her son of attending his high school graduation.
"I think the principals know this and so they do it. They know that the parents want to see their children graduate," she said.