Graduation and prom package should not be compulsory

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The Ministry of Education is investigating claims being by the Pares Secondary School graduating class of 2018 that they must pay $650 for the graduation and prom package or forfeit the graduation exercise.
On Thursday, over 30 students who are to form a part of the graduation procession on November 29 said that they were told they must pay the fee that would cover the cost of the graduation DVD, a yearbook, the gown and the cost of the prom at a restaurant in Falmouth Harbour.
However, Director of Education, Clare Browne told OBSERVER media yesterday that while there is no written policy in place at the Ministry of Education, in his view, it should be the choice of the graduate whether or not to participate in the graduation ceremony and prom.
“I do not think that anyone should be compelled; when you go to university and wherever, there is no compulsion for graduation. When I was a principal, I never forced anyone to participate in the graduation exercise; if you were not participating then you were not participating – you were never forced to be involved in the [ceremony], but you are entitled to your school-leaving certificate,” Browne said.
The director, who was an educator for more than 15 years, and principal of the Antigua Grammar School from 2003 to 2007, also said that instructions have since been given to the Education Officer for Secondary Schools, Jonah Greene, to meet with the principal and to provide the principal with the necessary guidelines for graduation.
“If a student chooses not to participate in the [graduation exercises] in any of our secondary schools then so be it, likewise if a principal determines that a student has not met the graduation criteria and they would not graduate the student then that is the call of the school because you have set criteria for graduation and your [school] makes that call. It works both ways,” the education director added.
Browne was quick to add that he did not have all the details in this Pares Secondary School matter and that the schools would have established their own individual policies – a student taking part in graduation exercises and prom should be by choice.
The students said that they and their parents were told they would need to pay $650 for the package deal to graduate at a church and attend the prom.
But at least one-third of the graduating class said that they cannot afford to participate in the ceremony because there are outfits, accessories and other things that they would need to purchase for the special event.
They prefer to opt out.
The group of pupils said they should not be forced to pay for something that they are not interested in, neither should they be punished and denied the right to walk for the last time as a student of the school at the graduation exercises.
They suggested that the venue for the graduation was poor and not scenic enough for photos.
 They also frowned on the selected restaurant and said that there was no communication from the planning committee, and they had no input in the planning.
Principal Ursula Willock said that the committee would call the students to have a meeting on the matter, however, up to yesterday, the students had not heard from the school.

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