23 Jul

“Your name is on the list but I cannot allow you to be a part of the rehearsal process until your graduation fee is paid”
“But miss I did not get a voucher”
“That is because you have outstanding school fees for the past three years”
“So Miss how much money is that?”
“Go to the office, speak to one of the secretaries and they will calculate and let you know”

Background to dialogue
*Lisa crept into the graduating class rehearsal without being seen. She manage to disguise herself well among the 257 girls who were preparing to take that Final Walk. Luckily for me, I was working with a vigilant office staff. A voucher turned up in their file with the name Lisa Perez, indicating she paid her graduation fee. She was immediately summoned to the office. Long and short of it, she admitted accepting a voucher from a student who no longer needed hers as she was migrating prior to the graduation ceremony and would not be attending. She was told she will not join the line up; the money paid will be transferred towards her outstanding school fee. If she wanted to graduate, she needed to clear all the fees.

The Story continues…
That’s how I got involved. I was told not to admit her in rehearsals. This was three days before the graduation ceremony. Their valedictory Mass was the Friday, and the Sunday was the big day. Today was Wednesday. Lisa owed $58,000.

Thursday morning Lisa’s mom was at the school with $20,000. She asked for leniency. It was denied. By Thursday afternoon she came with another $10,000. The administration was still resolute.

Friday about mid-day, the graduands started arriving, dressed in their uniforms, their gowns in hands and fancy hairstyles. They were excited. I could feel it in the air. Lisa was present with her Fancy hairstyle, her beautiful white shoes, face flawlessly made up, but she had no gown. She was not permitted entry to the room for the graduands.

Fast forward several hours later…
The graduands got dressed for their valedictory mass, formed the line up to head to the church, while Lisa she sat on the bench next to the office window. She was awaiting the arrival of her mom with the remaining $18,000 that was outstanding for the school fee. The secretary in charge of issuing the gowns decided to prepare a complete set for her (gown, cape, hat, tassel, corsage) in the event her mom showed up. At 5:00p.m, the girls disappeared into the church. Lisa was still waiting. At about 5:30 a woman entered the compound in great hurry and rushed to the front office. It was Lisa’s mom. She had the remaining $18,000. Lisa was cleared and at 5:36, despite being thirty-six minutes late, she made her way to the church to join the others.

Students basking in the excitement of their “Final Walk”

Twisted priorities
The thing about this situation that bothers me is the issue of priorities. There are several other Lisa’s out there in many educational institution. Every year it happens. Parents refuse to pay school fees. There are students owing as much as $70,000 in school fees and when they are told they have met all criteria for graduation but will not be permitted to do so because of the outstanding funds, parents find the money. All. Of. It. Where did that money come from? if you can find 40 to 70 thousand dollars within a two week period, what happened over the three to four period why it was not paid? In addition to paying the many thousand dollars for outstanding school fees, they have to pay $10,000 for graduation fees, pay for their child hairstyles, nails, shoes and all the other pampering that come with this fete.

There is a high level of delinquency among parents when it comes to paying school fees that is unfathomable. School fees are important to the daily function of an institution. This is how the utilities and several other bills are paid. When parents do not pay these fees, then added pressure is placed on the institution. Because of this high level of delinquency, some schools (possibly all or most) made the decision to marry the payment of school fees to the Final Walk.

This level of delinquency is not only with school fees but also the purchasing of books and other materials for schools. I have had instances where the student is absent from school because of the supposedly lack of funds, but the same student is present at a function on the weekend fully fashionably dressed from head to toe.

Most Parents just want that feel good moment where their child/ren is the centre of attention; where they can say my child graduate high school; and so this feel good moment trumps everything else. It becomes priority even over academics sometimes. Schools’ administrators are aware of the fact this is where parents priority lies, hence they have opted to use this medium to recover  as much funds as possible.

While I am supportive of this decision by schools, I am concerned about the twist in priorities of parents. The enthusiasm, dedication, attention and sacrifice that they show when their child is about to graduate high school, I wish the same is shown during the child’s tenure in high school.

What are your views?

*Fictious name


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