In terms of Section 25 (12 and 13) of the National Protocol on Assessment 2011, a student's "parents or guardians have the right of access to report cards of their children", and "schools may not withhold report cards from learners for any reason whatsoever".
This regulation applies to both public and independent schools from Grade R to Grade 12.
Nonetheless, as we at Parent24 see every year, schools still withhold reports from students and parents, keeping these until parents have settled outstanding fees or returned missing textbooks, or for any other reason.
As this mom of a matriculant at a government school wrote to explain to us, her daughter lost a job interview because the school will not give her matric certificate due to outstanding school fees.
"The staff at the school is constantly calling us in to sign something before they give the reports," she told us.
"I was at the school last week and spoke to the principal and he refused to give my child's matric certificate, telling me to pay first. I lost my job because of Covid-19 and I asked him how I must to afford to pay, and he just told me to make a way."
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is clear that government schools may not withhold reports for any reason.
This dad, whose child is at a private school, has a similar issue.
"I have seen many parents faced with this same scenario and it absolutely saddens me to see everyone go through this at a time where we all have been faced with the challenges of 2020's Covid-19 nightmare, where many of us had to be faced with some or other sort of financial sacrifice," he wrote.
"But not this school," he goes on, "they expected their full tuition and did not accept any financial agreements."
All parents got were threats and a claim to not charge parent interest on fees, he added, and when he questioned these actions with the school and even noted the legislation, the answer he got was "we are not a government school, we are a private school and there is nothing we can do".
According to the Independent Schools Association of South Africa private schools may not withhold reports as a method to recoup outstanding fees, and must instead follow other avenues in this regard.
Sue Larkan of Tabansi, an activist for students and parents, stressed to Parent24 that there is no reason a school should withhold reports, and that in fact schools may not even segregate the way reports are actually distributed, for example by making parents come into the school to collect and make a financial arrangement.
Some schools, for example, force parents to sign an acknowledgement of debt in the case of outstanding fees - this is in fact illegal, she says.
So what can parents do when faced with schools and staff who refuse to acknowledge that they cannot withhold reports?
Besides reaching out to Larkan for personalised advice, parents can also contact their local Education District office.
These are responsible for, among other things, oversight and accountability of schools, and as such are charged with ensuring parent's receive the reports.
Contact your nearest office and let them know your situation.
Find your nearest Education District office here
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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