Are pub­lic schools re­ally for free?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

By Faye-Chantelle Mon­de­sir

Through­out the school year par­ents com­plain about the con­stant bar­rage of let­ters they re­ceive from schools so­lic­it­ing do­na­tions or mis­cel­la­neous fees for ran­dom non-aca­demic events such as the fa­mous dress-down days. Why par­ents are ex­pected to bear the ex­pense of some­times seem­ingly un­nec­es­sary costs is the query raised by San­dra, mother of two daugh­ters, who ap­proached the STAR this week to vent her frus­tra­tions.

“From the time my girls en­tered school,” she con­fessed to the STAR, “It has seemed like every month the teach­ers are ask­ing for some­thing. If they aren’t re­quest­ing money for one thing, they host school events which par­ents are ex­pected to pay for. It’s as if teach­ers for­get that not all par­ents can af­ford to be giv­ing ex­tra monies to their chil­dren all the time. If it’s a cost to­ward their ed­u­ca­tion, I don’t mind spend­ing money but my daugh­ters don’t ben­e­fit from the ma­jor­ity of things their schools ask money for.”

Grad­u­a­tion day woes are the most com­mon around this time of year, ac­cord­ing to San­dra who has a hefty check­list of grad­u­a­tion ex­penses to meet. While par­ents of other chil­dren may rush around ex­cit­edly in search of grad­u­a­tion gabs, she is far from thrilled at “the big bill she has on her back”, as she so bluntly ad­mit­ted. San­dra, a strug­gling mother of five and 12-year-old daugh­ters, lamented, “Kayla’s pre-school grad­u­a­tion fees are so costly, al­most twice the amount of my big girl! With my other daugh­ter, at least she can re­use her clothes af­ter she grad­u­ates, but my lit­tle girl’s grad­u­a­tion gown will be rented, so all the money I am spend­ing for her is just a waste!”

San­dra be­lieves that a stan­dard sys­tem of al­low­ing chil­dren to wear their school uni­form, or any gar­ments of their choice with stan­dard gowns as over-coats, rented for a rea­son­able fee, is the ideal so­lu­tion for par­ents in gen­eral around this costly prepara­tory pe­riod for the next school se­mes­ter.

“Al­ready things are so costly, with the ex­or­bi­tant prices of text books, uni­forms and school sup­plies be­ing so high,” she moaned. “When a child is leav­ing one school and get­ting ready to en­ter an­other, so much fi­nan­cial pres­sure should not be placed on par­ents. It isn’t like we live in the UK or Mar­tinique where gov­ern­men­tal assistance is given. Apart from the $500 bur­sary fee the for­mer gov­ern­ment gave chil­dren mov­ing for­ward to high school, par­ents ba­si­cally bear all costs. Who feels it knows it.”

For now, San­dra just hopes the ex­pense will prove to be ad­van­ta­geous for her daugh­ters while she waits to see if the let­ters they bring home will lessen in the next school year.

The ex­pense of school goes be­yond the class­room and into grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies.

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