School battle rages on

2014-02-20 00:00

THE battle lines have again been drawn between Pietermaritzburg parent, Pranesh Indrajith and St Charles College, the school he last year accused of hampering his son, Pavishkar’s, cricket career.

This time the issues revolve around the failure by Indrajith, a local attorney, and his wife, Anitha, to pay school fees totalling almost R70 000 during 2013, and the alleged refusal by St Charles College to release Pavishkar’s matric results until the fees were paid.

Last year Indrajith turned to the high court in an attempt to have Pavishkar reinstated as cricket team captain at St Charles after he was removed.

In January, Judge Rashid Vahed dismissed Indrajith’s application to force the school and its principal, Allen van Blerk, to restore the captaincy to the youngster.

Judge Vahed said at the time the court did not have the power to intrude on the school’s internal affairs.

The application had however become moot because Pavishkar completed his schooling last year.

The current dispute resulted in an application for summary judgment being launched by St Charles College for payment of R69 479,31 (being fees and interest due up to the end of October 2013), plus 15% interest from November last year to date of payment, and legal costs.

The case came before the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday but, in an opposing affidavit, Indrajith said as far as he was concerned the matter ought to have been withdrawn with each party paying its own costs.

He said he and his wife had paid the school R69 500 last month in “full and final settlement” of fees although he maintains they weren’t obliged to pay anything to secure the release of Pavishkar’s results.

Indrajith said the money was paid on January 28 by education department representative, Fuad Desai, who went to the school in response to his complaint that St Charles refused to release his son’s results unless the fees were paid.

Indrajith said this was “clearly unlawful” in terms of a section of the National Protocol for Assessment — which governs both public and independent schools.

Indrajith said he told St Charles’s lawyers via fax last November that if his son had been “properly treated by Dave Karlsen (St Charles cricket coach) and/or the principal” the fees would have been paid last year.

“As a result of what had occurred Pavishkar was deliberately prevented from playing first team soccer and first team hockey notwithstanding the fact that the principal had advised him that he would walk into the first hockey team if he went back to playing sport,” he said.

“In fact discussions took place between Pavishkar and the hockey coach as regards team tactics, captaincy issues etc. but still he was prevented from captaining or playing first team hockey and this can only be at the instance of the principal,” he said.

“Pavishkar did not receive a full and proper education and the actions of the coach and principal are subject to a damages claim,” he added.

Acting Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati yesterday granted an order (consented to by both sides) giving the go-ahead for the case to go to trial but no date was set for any future hearing.

Indrajith said the education department sent Desai to St Charles on Jan­uary 28 this year.

“Desai approached the principal … for Pavishkar’s matric results, which the school was obliged to hand over without any monies whatsoever,” he said.

Indrajith said Desai met St Charles College principal, Allen Van Blerk, and they’d agreed that on payment of R69 500 the “matter will be regarded as settled and no further action taken”.

“Though my wife and I were under no obligation to pay any monies whatsoever, we agreed to the settlement,” he said.

“The entire action therefore ought to be withdrawn with each party paying its own costs,” he said.

Desai confirmed in a supporting affidavit that he was authorised by the education department to collect Pavishkar’s matric results from St Charles College, that he met Van Blerk as alleged, and had paid the College R69 500 in terms of a settlement reached.

He said he’d advised the principal that under the National Protocol for Assessment affecting grades R to 12 — and which concerns public and independent schools — schools may not withhold report cards from pupils “for any reason whatsoever”.

This didn’t prevent a school from using other means, such as legal action, to obtain overdue school fees.

“Independent schools must comply with all relevant legislation in the country where they operate and in South Africa all organisations including independent schools … must abide by the SA Constitution and Bill of Rights and comply with sections of the SA Schools Act relating to independent schools,” he said.

Desai said he had also told Van Blerk that issues “including the issue of a cricket captaincy” could have been dealt with by the department.

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