The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has deplored the actions of a Mitchell’s Plain primary school, following the naming and shaming of 41 primary school pupils with outstanding school fees. The principal of the Mandalay Primary School, Eddie Swarts, has come under fire after he resolved to publish the names of students with outstanding fees, along with the amounts owed, in the schools monthly newsletter. The moved has provoked outrage amongst parents, with some threatening legal action against the school.
The total amount of outstanding fees is reported to be in the region of R42 000, with those listed in the news letter all believed to be in Grade 7. Students at the school were urged to take the newsletters home, in an attempt to ‘shock parents into paying’.
Whilst the department sympathized with the school on the matter of outstanding fees, WCED director of communications, Paddy Attwell, insisted they were not in agreement with the measures taken by the school. According to department policy, schools were not allowed to take any form of action against learners, in order to recover fees.
“Our view is that the school has taken action against learners in this way, and this is totally unacceptable,” he said.
He said they were well aware of the school’s struggles to get parents to pay up, which included writing frequent letters, offering them the chance to pay as installments, using debt collectors, and even seeking legal advice. But Attwell said it was imperative that parents also came to the party.
“If they can’t afford the fees, that will be acknowledged and there is a process of applying for exemption from paying fees. The department has budgeted something like R44 million to help schools compensate for fee exemptions,” he said.
Such financial problems are not something new to schools, with the department holding regular consultations with schools and principals on such issues. In the case of Mandalay, Atwell said the department would be following up with the school, before taking the appropriate action.
“This particular letter which has published the student’s names is contrary to policy, so we have to follow up and investigate. There will be further discussions with the school in the regard,” he said.
As for those parents affected by the publication, he suggested the best recourse would be to seek out legal action against the school. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)