Not having access to a school report can have many far-reaching effects, so we want to make it clear once again:
A school may not withhold a report card for any reason. The practice of withholding report cards is against the law.
- outstanding school fees
- unpaid fundraisers
- missing textbooks
Any reason at all
We spoke to Sue Larkan of Tabansi, an activist for students and parents, who stressed that there is no reason a school should withhold reports, assessments or Matric Certificates.
"A school may not, for any reason, withhold reports," she told us. "The practice of withholding report cards is against the law."
In fact, she says, schools may not even segregate the way reports are actually distributed, for example by making parents come into the school to collect and make an arrangement.
Some schools, for example, force parents to sign an acknowledgement of debt in the case of outstanding fees - this is in fact illegal.
The regulations state the following:
a) Section 25 (13) of the National Protocol on Assessment 2011, a school may not withhold a report card for any reason.
b) 2006 - An amendment to the South African Schools Act makes it illegal for pupils to be marginalised.
c) The Act prohibits schools from denying pupils textbooks, keeping them out of school and withholding their reports.
Parents and learners are protected
Larkan says the school has to establish if the parent can actually afford the AGM-voted fee they are charging, usually with a means test that is based on school fees and income.
"Assets, property value, vehicle value and so on is not used to formulate the percentage of reduction or exemption in fees, nor is hordes of bank stamped forms proof that you do not have more than one bank account," she says.
She says parents and learners are protected by the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 as amended, including the regulations for exemption or reduction in fees as per the Government Gazette Notice 18 October 2006 No 29311.
Serious impact on a student's schooling and career
Larkan says that she is often asked for help by adults whose schools still refuse to release their matric certificates, in some cases for as long as 8 years.
This can obviously have a serious impact on a student's schooling and career. Without a report students cannot change schools, or apply for tertiary education.
Without a matric certificate school leavers struggle to find jobs.
Not a credit agreement
Larkan explains that since payment of public school fees is not a credit agreement or application for credit, they are not regulated by the National Credit Act 2005 as amended.
So schools cannot request credit clearance and ITC listing for parents who have not been assessed.
A school may only use Section 41 of the Act on recovery of school fees once they have determined that the parent does not qualify at all for reduction (based on a sliding scale of percentage) or full exemption.
She adds that there is no closure to date for the application for reduction or exemption of school fees.
Devious way to collect outstanding fees
She says "Parents 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. The same goes when a learner leaves a school for another and the school refuses a transfer card and report."
"The schools do talk to each other and the victimisation that goes with this is epidemic in our schools," she reveals.
"The sad part is that parents do not want to challenge the school and often think that their children will be victimised - they are correct, as this does happen."
A teacher or staff member may not discuss the school fee matter with the learner, she explains, as it is not their responsibility: the account is between the School Governing Body and the parent.
Every contribution counts
"I would like to emphasise to all parents, even though they might be exempted from paying fees," Larkan says, "if they do have an income, however tiny, to pay a 'voluntary school fee'."
"This helps the schools as they do not receive the full amount of school fees refunded from the government, but a only a small portion thereof. If you find yourselves in financial difficulty, but can contribute something, please do so.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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