Letter of the Day | Why school graduation ceremonies cost an arm and a leg?
THE EDITOR, Madam:
It is graduation time again. Parents of children in basic, primary, and high school are under stress to fork out hefty sums to pay for graduation packages. I got a call over the weekend to assist a youngster preparing to leave primary school to start high school. The caller was a mother, who often has trouble finding lunch money to send her son to school. She told me she was being asked to pay $20,000. What does this package consist of? I was told cleaning and ironing the gown, corsage, decoration of the venue, rental of chairs, gift for the speaker, and more. The graduation is being held on the school compound.
There have been many outcries over the years. It seems like another way to distinguish between the haves and have-nots. Why is all this necessary to mark the passage from basic to primary or from primary to secondary school? I agree that a ceremony is appropriate to mark this important milestone in a child’s life, but at what cost?
In 2015, the Ministry of Education and Youth posted a statement reminding school principals to take measures to reduce the cost of graduation (https://moey.gov.jm/high-cost-of-graduation-packages/). They were encouraged to have adequate discussion at the parent-teacher meetings and to ensure the input of all stakeholders, especially the parents. The fact is that it is already known that there is a certain percentage of children who struggle to attend school right through the year and whose parents will not be able to afford the graduation. Many of these parents would probably not even attend the PTA meetings anyway, and if they did, might be too embarrassed to speak up and say they can’t afford it. Does that mean that these children would have to be embarrassed vis-à-vis their peers because they can’t attend the graduation ceremony?
I believe it is time that the ministry put its foot down and put a cap on the cost of these graduation ceremonies rather than leave it to the discretion of the individual schools. I, therefore, call upon the ministry to have the basic to high schools’ graduation policies amended to include the following stipulations:
1. Graduands wear their school uniforms to the ceremony;
2. The school compound be the first option for the graduation venue subject to its capacity to facilitate all graduands and patrons;
3. Parents be given at least three months’ notice of the cost of graduation packages.
Let us bear in mind that the parents will also have to be forking out big money shortly after to get new uniforms, books, and fees for children to start the new school term. They may have to choose between graduation and schoolbooks for the new school term.
Child Watch Legal
An affiliate arm of Hear the Children Cry