Thursday, December 08, 2005

Les Couronnes, the school, the streetlights and the poor

There are traditions in many places of parents raising funds for their kid's school. They’re obviously not the same everywhere. Here, the latest round has found me a bit miffed as I’ve thought it all through. A brief bit of background …

Apparently, the local education authority decides on school standards, curriculum, holiday dates, free Saturdays (don’t ask!) and so on. But not money. They don’t decide how much each school gets to achieve these things. Le Maire does. And they don’t all decide the same. So you get a Maire, any Maire, and they may have different priorities about spending.

In this case, they’ve been installing urban street lights outside remote farms this year. Terry the Cheese virtually had to send them packing with a shotgun under his arm, having searched for three years to find a nice quiet rural spot to make sheep’s cheese, and in no mood for a little urbanisation thank you very much. So for reasons like these, sometimes schools find themselves short of a few bob, especially for trips away, even if they are prescribed by the local education chiefs.

That’s the background then. So now what happens is the ‘Friends of the School’ or Amicale Laïque do stuff to raise money to help out. Now I’m not against this idea in principle at all, but what’s happened this time doesn’t feel right. The two kids in our village, my little lamb and her neighbour from the same class have been all round the area taking orders for Christmas couronnes. Dozens of them. Our neighbours are, for the most part, retired paysans often over 70 years old. So they’ve had five euros each elicited out of them. The couronnes were made by a particularly keen bunch of parents last Friday. Only, so many had been ordered that there wasn’t enough material to do any of them justice. So now, we’ll be collecting said couronnes and delivering the sorry things to the neighbours. Who will probably be as sorry as we will be when we ask for the fiver.

All this will raise a few hundred euros to help pay for the school’s week-long class away at the seaside. And represents the cost of installing just one of the street lamps that many people didn’t even want. There’s something not quite right about scrounging fivers from poor old retired farmers instead of using public money somewhat better.

But then the (ab)use of public money round here is another very big story …

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