We recently wrote an article clarifying that withholding school reports, for any reason, is against the law. But readers wrote to us to share that despite the fact that withholding school reports in lieu of outstanding fees is illegal, many families are still being denied reports and more.
These readers share their experiences:
‘I had thought they can do this’
“I was so happy when I saw this article about school fees. Last term I was late paying school fees by 4 days and they charged me a penalty of R125, and due to this, my son was not allowed to get his report till I pay the R125.
The teacher handing out the report even made a comment as she handed the report to the other kids, which embarrassed him so much he didn’t want to even go to school. All for R125. Due to the school being a private remedial school, I had thought they can do this.”
‘Absolute terrible hostility’
“We had no choice but to apply for fees exemption at my child's primary school and we were met with an absolute terrible hostility and the most unfriendly attitude by the bursar, with every changing form, including a form to visit every bank to confirm we do not have an account with them.
Even after we were way below the annual income amount, we were forced to specify an annual amount we were prepared to pay. If we didn't submit an amount, our application would not have been submitted.
Kids are definitely victimised in a sense that in order to qualify for Civies day or participate in a fun event, they have to make a donation. If no donation is given (lots of parents cannot afford donations on top of everything else), then the kids are not allowed to participate at all, which is absolutely ridiculous and discriminating.
It’s the same as withholding a report or certificate if the parents have not paid any fees.
If parents do not pay for textbooks before the new school year, we are told they will not receive any which is pathetic and threatens the very education access every child deserves. I wish the Department of Education would investigate these matters.”
Also read: How to get child support grants in South Africa
‘Ridiculed in front of my kids’
“My husband became disabled due to an accident in 2006, we lost everything, his business and everything else that went with it. When our daughters were ready to go off to junior school we had a bit of money to pay the full fees every month as we had some savings left over.
We informed the school of our situation to no avail, I had to sit in front of the principal on numerous occasions crying my heart out to please understand that we couldn’t afford the fees as my husband couldn’t find a job because of his disability,
All he kept saying was your child will not get her report in Matric if you are not able to school fees. When she gets out of high school, we have no choice but to hand you over.
Each term fetching my girls’ reports became a nightmare, I had to stand in front of the accounts with my kids begging for their reports and be ridiculed in front of my kids and other parents.
After trying to pay them R200 a month or when I could I was handed over, I begged and pleaded with the school and the attorney’s, but I was ignored.
They asked me for my bank statements so they could see how much I earned. I was told I need to pay, or a garnish will be applied.
I have never been so traumatised in all my life, my girls included. They told the kids in class if your parents don’t pay you cannot go on outings or camps!
I am having to pay the schools debt collectors every month and still to date, after all my pleas.”
Social media users also had plenty to say on the subject:
Alwyn says “I remember being shamed in front of the entire class because my parents were late with their school fees. And those were the wonderful 80s. So what's changed, really? Nothing. Because money still decides class.”
Divana has similar memories “We used to get whipped in front of the class and told not to come back till it's paid up. Terrible.”
Tracey-Lee says she still doesn’t have her matric certificate from 2001. “I made use of my results sheet, however. Wish I had taken the school on back then!”
Also read: School fee exemptions made easier for single parents
Withholding report cards is against the law
Sue Larkan of Tabansi, who advocates for parents and students in situations like these, says that parents must learn to stand up for their rights, but that they “are being webbed into this devious way of collecting outstanding fees by retaining the learners report, knowing very well it is emotional blackmail and intimidation.”
"A school may not, for any reason, withhold reports," she told us. "The practice of withholding report cards is against the law."
Likewise, schools may not marginalise students for outstanding fees, or withhold textbooks either.
Schools may not even segregate the way reports are actually distributed, for example by making parents sign an acknowledgement of debt in the case of outstanding fees.
Read more here: Withholding school reports, for any reason, is against the law
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Share your stories with us, and we could publish them. Anonymous contributions are always welcome.