High-priced boots out for school

by Terrence Esseboom
Guyana Chronicle
September 15, 1999

OVERPRICED and "fashionable footwear" will be outlawed in schools.

That's the word from Education Minister, Dr. Dale Bisnauth.

He told the Chronicle the ministry will soon be tightening regulations to ensure moderate dressing at all school activities and to curb abuses of contingency fees payment.

A strict dress code for attendance at schools and participation in annual graduation ceremonies will be adopted to curb excesses and the financial burdens many parents face to outfit children, he said.

The Education Minister said the proposed regulations have become essential because of mounting complaints from parents about the cost of participating in events organised by schools.

He said too that under the new guidelines, children will be required to wear school uniforms at graduations.

Complaints among parents have increased steadily about the spiralling cost of graduation exercises, Bisnauth told the Chronicle Monday.

He announced that he has written Chief Education Officer, Mr. Ed Caesar on the issue, and all nursery, primary and secondary school students must appear in their school attire at graduations.

The use of gowns and hard hats will also be discontinued.

A typical graduation which lasts about three hours, may cost a parent some $8,000.

This will be higher according to the perceived status of the school.

The move to implement stricter guidelines for dressing among pupils was hastened by last Sunday's suicide by Samantha Cunningham, a 12-year-old West Demerara Secondary School student.

Her parents said she hanged herself at her Old Road, La Grange, West Demerara home after her mother bought her a $6,000 pair of boots to attend school.

She wanted a `brand name' pair that cost $13,000, they said.

Bisnauth expressed his "profound sense of sorrow" at the tragedy and appealed to parents to use "sound judgement and common sense" when purchasing items for their children to attend school.

He, however, lashed out at local businessmen, accusing them of "economic callousness."

Bisnauth said storeowners and advertisers must exercise "some care" on the issue of cost they slap on school goods.

"...they must not be as profit oriented as they are. They must consider too the social implications...on children... of that kind of profit orientation," the Education Minister argued.

He is worried that increasingly, the size of the profit is becoming the sole social determinant in Guyana.

"...when that is the case the whole society will have to pay," he warned.

On the issue of contingency fees, he wants Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) to oversee this measure "with the clear understanding that contributions to these funds are voluntary."

He said too that children should not be insulted or penalised if their parents do not donate to that special school account.

The Education Minister also wants fees to be levied on a graduated basis for parents who have several children at school.

Children's report cards, and text and exercise books must not be withheld for this reason, Bisnauth said.

"I will not tolerate that...and the (contingency) fees must be accounted for" by school administrators, the minister stated.

The account was introduced for the benefit of the children and once the PTAs settle the size of the contingency contribution, "no (additional financial) demands must be made on parents," Bisnauth said.

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