Community furious over school’s illegal withholding of reports

2009-12-15 00:00

SCHOOLS are still illegally withholding reports from children whose parents have not paid their school fees and the Eastwood Community Forum intends applying to the high court to force a local high school to release all reports held in this manner.

According to Fred Wagner, chairman of the forum, the law states that a child cannot be sent home from school or refused results for tests or exams if school fees have not been paid.

But this is allegedly something Eastwood Secondary has been doing over the years despite its being unconstitutional.

“A child cannot be held responsible or be punished for something that is between the parents and the school. Why should the children who’ve worked hard all year be embarrassed that way?

“It is a civil matter and you can’t use that criterion to draw school fees from parents; there are lawyers for that.”

One of the parents the forum will be representing is a single parent who works as a domestic worker.

According to Wagner, she was handed over to lawyers for owing R900, but that has now risen to R 1 708 with added costs.

“This woman earns about R800 a month and she can only pay R200 a month for school fees. Now if she can’t pay the R900, how on earth is she expected to pay that? If you look at her debt statement, she has to pay R67 to sign for the form. You get charged 10% for collection charges and 14% for VAT on lawyer’s charges,” said Wagner.

He said schools depend on the fact that some parents are illiterate and take advantage of the fact that they don’t know their rights.

“They are even withholding a report from a child whose mother is dead. They are making these people sign acknowledgement of debt forms for something they are receiving now but on the actual form it stipulates that the money needs to be paid by November.”

Alwyn Sass, a father of a Grade 9 pupil at the school, said they don’t know whether their child has passed or failed since her report was held for an outstanding book fee, which they have a receipt of payment for.

His wife said their daughter did not tell them about the lost book, but when they found out that the school would withhold her report, they paid on the last day of school only for their daughter to be told that the reports were already locked up in the strong room and could only be accessed next year.

“I think what the school is doing is not good because these children sometimes kill themselves over this. My child has to spend Christmas in the dark, not knowing whether she passed or not.”

Department spokesman Sihle Mlotshwa asked principals to refrain from “those practices because it is against policy”.

He encouraged affected parents to contact their local circuit and district offices.

Wagner can be contacted at 033 390 3868.

Meanwhile, furious parents of ­pupils at Orient Heights High School queued for hours outside the school last week after the principal refused to hand over reports if school fees were not up to date.

“We don’t have the R800 that is required. We are unemployed. The principal should explain to us if the child support grant is to be used for the child’s food or for education,” said one parent.

Another said that she had to sell her wedding ring to pay the remaining school fees that she owed.

Maria Krotane, community leader and member of the school governing body (SGB), said some parents did not go to the school when they were called to sign forms stating that they can’t afford the fees and should be subsidised by government.

The Education Department’s spokeswoman Mbali Thusi urged parents to report the matter at the district office.

“… I appeal to parents who can’t afford to pay fees to report to the SGB in order to be exempted.”

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