Demand your report card

Sanele Mosikili* arrived at school yesterday only to be chased away by the principal of her primary school because her mother had not paid school fees. What was supposed to be an exciting and fun-filled day as Sanele graduated from her Grade 7 class and looked forward to moving on to high school turned into a very unhappy and frustrating day indeed.

“The principal chased her out of the school” says Sanele’s mother Zodwa Mosikili*. “He was so aggressive, it’s not right.”

Zodwa knows her rights and applied for a Child Support Grant (CSG) because she is a single unemployed mother. “I know that if I receive a Child Support Grant that I automatically qualify for a school fee exemption” she says “but then he chases my daughter out of the school and now he is also saying that he will not give us Sanele’s report card.”

Zodwa approached the Education Law Project at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg for assistance.

CALS deals with these kinds of queries on an ongoing basis and this story is no exception. The Education Law Project often receives phone calls from parents whose children are being discriminated against for the non-payment of school fees even though the law clearly states that it is illegal to do so.

Parents need to read the South African Schools Act (84 of 1996), especially the Regulations relating to the exemption of parents from payment of school fees in public schools and understand it so that they can demand their rights at the school.

SASA states that it is illegal to charge any school fees for a learner:
•    Who is registered at a “No-fees” schools
•    Whose parent receives a social grant on behalf of the same learner e.g. a child support grant
•    Who has been placed in the care of a family member (“kinship caregiver”) and has been abandoned by his or her parents
•    Has been placed in a foster home, youth care centre, a place of safety or an orphanage
•    Who is a child who heads an household or is part of a child headed household

Moreover, Section 41 (7) of SASA also states that a learner may not be discriminated against despite the non-payment of school fees by his or her parent and may not be victimised in any manner, including:
•    Suspension from classes
•    verbal or non-verbal abuse
•    denial of access to cultural, sporting or social activities of the school or the nutrition programme
•    denial of a school report or transfer certificate.

Principals are acting illegally when they discriminate against these learners because of a fees problem. The fees are the responsibility of the parent and not the learner and should in no way affect the learner’s access to education.

Since 18 October 2006 the SASA law has been in place to protect parents and learners who cannot afford to pay school fees and parents should become aware of this law and use it to protect their rights and their children’s right to education.

Finally parents also need to be responsible and go to the school and complete an exemption form every year to ensure that the proper processes are followed, even if they do automatically qualify. Parents who can afford to pay also have to be made aware that if they don’t the school can take them to court if they have fully followed the law.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

For further information contact Phillipa Tucker of the Education Law Project (ELP), which forms part of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS).

Has your child ever been denied his report? What have you done about it?

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