I know that this is a dilemma faced by many South African parents as most schools rely on fundraisers to upgrade sports facilities, make classrooms more interactive, etc. Normally these fundraisers are cake and candy sales, raffles or fun days at school, often during the week. Parents are usually not there to supervise their children who enjoy the prospect of “going shopping” without mum and dad. In my experience these events are fraught with problems where parents feel pressured to spend too much money on the one hand, and also worry about the lack of supervision which can lead to abuse by older children.
When a fundraiser is announced, the class teacher recommends that parents send the child to school with a proposed amount of money without giving the parents a chance to decide for themselves. The parents then feel obliged to give whatever is suggested to avoid embarrassing their kids.
I have on numerous occasions suggested that a list of items be sent home so that parents can sit with their kids and decide together – but this idea has always been dismissed by the school.
I once gave my 6 year old son R20 to support the cake and candy sale. He was very excited about going to school but when I saw him after school and asked what he had bought, I was told “just a sweet mommy”, and when I asked further “how much was it” a reply of “R2” was given. “Where’s your change?” I asked “no change mommy” he replied.
I subsequently found out that older kids served the younger kids and when my child gave his money he was told immediately – “there is no change”. Being a new young student at the school he felt intimidated and went to play with his friends.
This, and other similar experiences have left my kids and many other kids in the foundation phase sad, confused and disappointed.
Last year the school had a fun day on a week day with rides, games and other fun activities. Parents were not invited but were told to send R150 for the event. Once again, the amount is not obligatory but the children believe that what the teacher says is correct and what the parent says is wrong – so, to not disappoint my child – I sent the requested amount which was converted into tickets. My child left these tickets in his bag and sadly his water bottle leaked and all the tickets got wet – the school did not accept the tickets and so my child did not have a fun day.
A similar incident happened to another mom whose son lost R40 worth of tickets and another whose money never reached the school Although everything I have said here may sound emotional – I truly believe that children in the foundation phase should not be taking money to school. Teachers should not be talking money to a grade R or a grade 1 child – I feel it’s too much pressure on the children. Think of the children in the class whose parents actually cannot afford the money?
Ways to overcome these issues?
1. Have fun days on weekends so that parents, especially of foundation phase children can come and supervise their kids.
2. Instead of tickets on fun days use an arm band and sell day passes to kids, again especially for the foundation phase children.
3. For other sales send pictures and prices home of the items at least a couple of days before the event so that children can choose, with their parent’s help what they will get, and the correct amount of money can be sent to school.
4. Do not let older students serve younger kids – incorrect change can be given and sometimes no change at all.
5. Try and become a “cashless” school – many schools in Johannesburg are opting for the “no cash” route and although this might prove quite expensive – if schools can raise money for fancy sports centres then they should consider raising for this good course as well.
I believe that parents should ask themselves – how many of us would give our 6 year old R20 and allow them to walk to the shop around the corner to buy sweets?