Primary school list loaded with cleaning supplies

Parents balk at being asked to buy paper towels and soap

Back-to-School-L

When primary school students head back to school on Tuesday, their school bags will be packed with rolls of paper towels, boxes of Ziploc bags in various sizes, baby wipes, plastic aprons, sanitizer and soaps. 

“I was astonished at the amount of things I had to buy,” said Tyreece Whittaker’s mom Sherese Levy on her way to reception orientation at Bodden Town Primary School on Monday.  

“Besides uniforms, shoes, school books, crayons and pencils, the school also asked me to provide eight glue sticks, whiteboard markers, several erasers, Lysol wipes, hat and much more,” she said. 

Other parents at the school’s orientation also wondered what the huge list was about. 

“It is hard times. Why do they need everything at one time? It is kind of difficult at this time,” said Nolan Duarte, heading to reception with his child. 

Parent Millicent Britton had her own approach. “Ziploc bags, baby wipes, binders and paper towels – I wondered about that. I did not buy any of that stuff. I bought the regular school supplies of markers, glue, pencils, books, bags and uniforms,” she said. 

Bodden Town Primary’s principal June Elliott said she did not realize the list had things like paper towels and soaps, which she said are provided by cleaners. 

“I really did not double-check the list after it was revised, but we will not turn the children away if the parents cannot afford to bring the items,” Ms. Elliot said. “The items do help throughout the year when children have accidents, to wipe door handles and clean messes, and it is nice to have the extra around to wipe runny noses.”  

She said teachers use the Ziploc bags to store supplies for the students. 

According to the principal, teachers decided for the school year what will be on the list. “If paper towels were on the list, it might have been because they were not supplied frequently enough last year by suppliers and they ran out, so they might have thought they had to put it on the list to get parents to help out. Paper towels are something parents should not be supplying and should not have been on the list,” Ms. Elliott said. 

She also said strict budget cuts within government also has the school watching its budget.  

While many of the parents were frowning at picking up the bill for some of the items, it seems that supermarkets are catching on to the schools’ lists and are stocking such items as paper towels, soap and baby wipes next to composition books and pencils.  

Speaking with the parents and students on Monday, Ms. Elliott said it did not make sense if parents were unhappy to sit at home and complain, but to come to the school to talk to the teachers. “If a child does not bring the required items to school, it does not mean they would be turned away,” said Ms. Elliott. 

“There is not much in the way of supplies on the list because we do have supplies for students. It is more a list of toiletries for the students that the school does not provide,” said Kim Litrico, deputy principal of the Bodden Town Primary School. 

“Some of the stuff is to keep the place clean and in the case of accidents,” she said, explaining why parents were given the list. “If parents cannot afford most of the stuff, they do not have to worry about it,” she added. 

According to Ms. Litrico, government does not provide these items. “They do not buy Ziploc bags and we do not get it from the cleaning company, so we ask parents to buy it because it is something that is need in the classrooms. 

“The supplies are sectioned out so that each child can have their own Ziploc bag with crayons pencils and such things, and something to put clothes in when they have an accident. The paper towel is for when the children have an accident to clean it up,” she said. 

Ms. Litrico said they had not tried asking some of the supermarkets to donate such items, but it was something they could explore.  

At George Town Primary school, office worker Fay Taylor said their school list for reception did not have items such as paper towels and Ziploc bags.  

Back-to-School

On his first day at primary school, Tyreece Whittaker’s backpack is loaded with basic items requested by the school. – Photo: Jewel Levy

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Why should the government of the Cayman Islands be financially responsible for educating anyone’s child or children? For the most part people are not forced to have children so it beggars belief why the government would want to continue to provide free education.

    The cost of providing free education for thousands of students is too high and it is past time that the government get out of the business of free education. At the end of the day if someone can’t afford to take care of a child then they should not be having any children to begin with.

    I fully understand that what I am saying will not be popular with the many people that are abusing the system and putting an unnecessary strain on the public purse. However, having a child that you essentially can’t afford to take care of is nothing short of child abuse.

    Instead of the customary thumbs-down would it not be better for you to explain in detail why the government should be financially responsible for your decisions.

  2. I am sure there can be a solution to this problem, and yes Government may feel that they have to make cuts. However, right now I am thinking about the Ministers and MLA’s, from their respective district and the large congregation of people in our many churches. Why don’t they come forward with a solution in each of their districts to assist the schools in getting toilet paper, paper towel, wipes and soap for the little ones. This can be contributed to at the beginning of each term.
    Can you imagine these little children controlling all of this stuff? They will loose it in a day unless each child has his own locker, and at that age they still cannot control it.
    Another suggestion: The parent Teachers Association meetings. Hold fund raising events at the end of each term to buy these facilities for the next term.
    I know many parents can hardly find money to buy these necessities at home much less for the little ones to take to school too.
    Yes this may be a problem for some parents but not for all. So that means we need to all work together and come up with good ideas with everyone on board. Remember at Primary school is where it all begins. For the little ones to see and hear parents being stressed over these things will make them feel like they are doing something wrong, and we truly do not need that.

  3. To Boland: Do you have children? What an irresponsible comment. It takes a village to raise a child and one of the greatest things in a democratic society is that all children are entitled to a free public education. Many men and women have paid a high price for us to have such amazing freedoms and rights. Would you want to be an old man living in a society where basic rights such as free education were denied to the very people that were supposed to be running the country you are living in?

    The CI government can certainly afford to provide most of these things. However, it is the parents responsibility to provide their child with the necessary materials they need to be successful in school. When I was in school we had to provide most of the basics: binders, folders, glue, pencils, crayons, Kleenex, etc. Now, my son’s list is much more detailed but that is because times have changed -now they require white board pens because obviously they are used daily (no more chalk), etc. If parents are unable to afford these items, then simply send the child with whatever they can afford.

    Perhaps the community churches or government could offer ‘packages’ so that the parents don’t have to try to find them locally (which can be expensive). Buying in bulk and selling to the community at cost would be an effective alternative. I am sure there is an MLA or minister (or two) who has time on their hands to spear head such an operation.

  4. @Jo Hyde: It seems that you have missed the point entirely.

    Why are people having children that they can’t afford? It is child abuse!

    I do understand that sometimes families and individuals fall on hard times and that as a society we should have a strong social safety net to help people that are in need. However, what we have in Cayman is an unhealthy culture of dependence on the government for things that should not be the responsibility of the government.

    There is no such thing as ‘free public education’ as mentioned by you in your comment. Someone has to pay the costs associated with providing the education that you think is free and it is unfair for you to expect other people to take on the financial responsibility associated with your decisions.

    If it takes a ‘village to raise a child’ then that village should approve of your decision to have the child in the first place.

  5. Government, government. Stop relying on the system folks, and step up. What don’t you get, when there isn’t enough funds for your perfect little ones. Teach the kids now, that government shouldn’t and can’t be their other parent. Do for yourself. Be self reliant. LESS GOVERNMENT is what we need.

  6. The long list of supplies required at one government school has painted a negative light on the back to school process. The beginning of the school year is an important time for all students-everyone’s excited as children are happy to see old friends, meet new friends, meet their teacher, sport their new items, brag about their summer, etc.
    Let’s take a deeper look at the reality of what this article addresses; the cost of materials needed and the necessity of the items listed. The cost of materials needs to be addressed with local stores selling supplies. Every year in the US there is a back to school tax free period where parents can shop for school supplies and clothes in the anticipation of returning to school. This year in addition to the clothes and school items, it has also included the purchase of Ipads and computers- a prime shopping time. While some of our local stores have designated areas where school supplies are displayed for sale, have we now reached a time where we too should have a back to school shopping weekend? Should we remove taxes and tariffs on the importation of school supplies and allow them to be sold at cost for a weekend?
    The necessity of the items placed on a supply list should be addressed by the principal who in this case left it up to her teachers and did not double check the list herself as per her own words. However, if you have kids you will appreciate having a clean and well sanitized area, and when dealing with classrooms many items are necessary especially with younger children who have unforeseen accidents and make many messes. While it is unclear what supplies are provided by the government or the cleaning agencies, I do agree with the writer in her suggestion of periodically indicating throughout the year what items are needed. On the other hand the material lists at the Bodden Town Primary School were available in June/July giving parents ample time to acquire the necessary materials over a two month period. Parents whose child or children attend government schools are doing so at no cost. There is no school fee- other than the cost of uniforms, lunch and in this case supplies. But be fair, uniforms and lunches would be a cost at any school private or public, and at what rate can one educate their child for? Well at a very high rate upward of CI 6,500.00 to about CI13,800.00 (per annum) per child at some of the local private schools. Could this be why they in turn have no supply lists?? I can’t imagine paying that fee and purchasing supplies, and paying a PTA levy, placement fee, as well among other costs.
    Too often the struggles that parents face go unforeseen, and the issue of the long supply list is only the tip of the iceberg. Last year there was no toilet paper in the bathrooms, hand soap, and a limited quantity of Lysol disinfecting spray and hand sanitizer. There aren’t enough water coolers, and the canteen is absolutely awful! It is too small for whole school assemblies and the food prep area is ridiculously small- yet it serves over 200 students. There aren’t even any microwaves to heat leftover food for the kids. With the rising socio-economic problems it is even more difficult for the average or below average waged parent to provide some of the basic items for our kids to attend school (supplies, lunches, uniforms, field trip fees). Personally, I went to school during an era when my mother stayed at home and the cost of attending a private school was CI 125.00 per month, today we spend near that on school lunches!
    While kids won’t be turned away from school if their parents aren’t able to afford the list of supplies it does burden those who can and do. Ultimately let’s trust that this issue is solved as many suggestions were given by way of the comments made. Hopefully the principal does her job checking and double checking as well as taking our suggestions and making necessary changes. Certainly I do not think it is ultimately up to the whole community to provide, though some churches and institutions already do provide, I believe there are ways to lessen the impact while still achieving the overall goal of attaining the materials needed.
    Long ago all you needed was a pencil and a notebook, today supplies totaling approximately 200.00, tomorrow an iPad or are we already there in some cases?
    I would rather send the supplies and hope for a productive year, than to have sent my child with nothing wouldn’t you?

  7. I am sure the kids bag in the photo was staged to make a point. However I happen to agree with Mack on this and to me the things they are asking parent to supply have nothing to do with he education they are getting. Toilet paper as one person mentioned would be a bit much though.

    And yes I have children although they are all grown.

  8. Our children are all grown and live in the US, where for US50.00 and careful shopping, a person can almost outfit a classroom. Here in Cayman, we have an extended family of grand nieces and nephews, to assist with. Thank God for Foster’s Food Fair and their back to school sale! For CI175.00, we were able to get most of the items on the 3 lists that were provided for 8 kids! Then we came to the uniforms! The subsequent almost 400.00 spent made sure everyone had adequate to get started with today, but still needs more. The PE outfits, the pants and shirts, the specified color shoes was a real chore to find in Cayman. I finally found a pair on Walkers Road at the shoe store there for 68.00 for an 11 year old going to John Gray for the new school year. The 28.00 khaki pants and uniform shirts put a real dent in a pocketbook! Also a shout out to the CICSA for the filled book bags for the kids this year. A really great help out! I think sometimes in Cayman, we really don’t take into consideration the basic cost of living, match that to wages paid, and the two really do not add up! All things considered, kids, here’s to a great year at school. Work hard and learn lots.

  9. In my opinion one major point is being overlooked.

    To the best of my knowledge, and I would appreciate clarification if this has changed, but when the government pays a cleaning company to clean and maintain schools, that cost includes specific items (towel/tissues) not the individual sanitizers etc., which I do believe parents should provide.

    I personally do not agree with parents being asked to pay for supplies that are already being paid for by the government/taxpayers and why are people reluctant to address that point? Sometimes it’s not always the fault of parents’ of children in public schools.

    Maybe it’s time to do a FOI request regarding the companies contracted to clean these schools to assist with a more balanced view of this matter.