With the school year having drawn to a close and students eagerly awaiting their end of year results, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has stressed that the withholding of report cards for students with outstanding fees will not be tolerated. This comes as many schools have taken to using the extreme measure as a means of pressuring parents into paying up.
According to WCED director of communications, Paddy Attwell, schools found guilty of withholding reports cards would be considered in contravention of the South African Schools Act. Under the act, institutions are barred from taking any action against students in order to recover fees. However, the act does allow schools to follow other methods that do not implicate children directly.
The Western Cape Minister of Education, Debbie Schafer, has reportedly taken a hard line stance on the issue, releasing a statement indicating that if any schools were found guilty, the department would seek to investigate and deal with the matter in a very serious manner.
However, Atwell suggested there were several measures that schools could undertake should parents fail to pay fees, most notably taking legal recourse.
“There are a number of measures that parents can do as well if they simply cannot afford the fees. But certainly if they can afford it, then the school can take legal action against the parents to recover those fees,” he said.
In the case of parents unable to afford, Attwell noted they would be able to apply for an exemption or partial-exemption, based on their annual income. The department, which had budgeted a total of R44 million for this very purpose, would then seek to compensate the school for those fees.
“The system works on a sliding scale but essentially a good example is if the fees are more than 10% of the parents combined annual income, then they can apply for an exemption. If it is between more than 2% and 10%, they can apply for a partial exemption,” he explained.
Attwell said the department sympathized with schools who were struggling to acquire those outstanding fees, saying it reduced the ability of the schools to provide the best quality education and learning recourses for teachers and learner. He called on parents able to afford the fees to meet their parental obligations. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)