The education ministry yesterday reiterated that it will cover funeral costs of Clan Carthy Primary student Benjamin Bair who died in a freak accident at the school late last month.
“The ministry has asked the family for invoices from the funeral home with which they have made plans so that the arrangements for payment can be made. As is standard procedure, a Critical Incident File is submitted and processed and then sent to the Attorney General’s Chambers for processing and determination for payment,” the ministry said in a news release yesterday.
The ministry issued the release in an obvious response to a complaint from Bair’s mother, Japhene Campbell, about the form of financial assistance from the authorities published in yesterday’s Jamaica Observer.
In an interview conducted last Thursday, Campbell said she had received word from the ministry, by way of Clan Carthy Primary Principal Sheldon Richards, that the ministry would only cover some of the funeral costs.
“The principal told me from early on that he reached out to the Ministry of Education and they said that they would cover all the funeral expenses. That was the word of mouth I passed on to the funeral home and to my family members,” Campbell told the Observer.
“Now he is apologising and telling me that they will only pay for the casket, the keeping of the body, and for the hearse to take it out, and that is it. No church, no buttons, just those things,” Campbell said.
She also said that Richards had initially told her that the ministry would cover all funeral expenses and that she was promised financial assistance for the nine night.
However, in a phone interview with the Sunday Observer later on Thursday, Richards explained that Campbell’s concerns were relayed to the ministry and that a decision was taken to meet with her again to determine the other costs with which the ministry could assist.
“From last week I personally informed Miss Campbell as to how those expenses would be covered, so for me that isn’t even something that we need to revisit. She is fully aware of that. I have expressed her concerns to the ministry and they have been very understanding and willing to assist,” the principal said.
“As I said to her in the meeting today, I would express her concerns to the ministry. I have done that and the ministry has obliged to having a meeting set up. I am in the process of getting in touch with her to see if this can happen on Monday,” said Richards.
“The ministry had made it clear initially that they will assist in a particular way, which was indicated to Miss Campbell the moment I was informed. The ministry has committed to covering all the costs that the funeral home will indicate. These costs do not include nine night,” he added.
Karl Samuda, the minister with responsibility for education, had also told the Sunday Observer that a commitment letter would be prepared, and that the ministry would await the invoices from the funeral home.
“The ministry will undertake the cost of the funeral, and will give whatever assistance is normally given under those circumstances,” Samuda reassured.
Yesterday, the ministry said one of its officers, who spoke with Campbell last Friday, had arranged to meet with her and representatives of the school today to discuss her plans and guide her through acquiring and submitting bills/invoices related to the burial.
Seven-year-old Benjamin was reportedly among a group of students waiting to be picked up at the school, shortly before 5:00 pm on October 28, when a driverless garbage truck ran back and crashed into a parked taxi before overturning on him.