SCHOOL FEES AND WITHHOLDING REPORT CARDS
OUTSTANDING SCHOOL FEES – MAY THE SCHOOL WITHHOLD YOUR CHILD’S REPORT CARD?
It’s tough out there. Husband lost his job, landlord put up the rent, and the family budget is in tatters. Things are not looking good, even the school fees are behind in payment. The only child is expected to do well in her matric exams. The family wait anxiously for her report card. When the day finally came, they are disappointed to be informed that the report card will not be released, due to outstanding school fees.
What? Is that even legal?
WHAT DOES THE SA SCHOOLS ACT SAY?
Section 41 (7) of the South African Schools Act says that learners may not be deprived of their rights to participate fully in school programmes, this includes receiving a report card. This regulation applies to both public and private schools from Grade R – 12. What then gives a school the right to withhold report cards because of unpaid school fees?
If a school does withhold a report card, they are in the wrong. Both the Gauteng and Western Cape Education Departments recently stated that they will act against schools that withhold learners’ report cards if they fail to pay their school fees. No public or private school may withhold a report card, under any circumstances. Parents are encouraged to report any such cases to their local education department.
BUT SCHOOLS NEED FUNDING – WHAT ARE THEY TO DO?
Private schools are normally well funded, as the parents tend to be more affluent. However, regarding public schools, let’s be honest with each other – there are isolated cases of parents allocating a very low priority to paying their children’s school fees. They claim ‘poverty’, but somehow, they go on holiday, and the liquor cabinet is always full. It is parents like these that make it difficult for schools to operate properly. They also make it difficult for parents that are really struggling to make ends meet.
Contrary to popular belief, the State does not fully fund public schools. The Governing Bodies are responsible for the budget and they almost always must generate additional funds to ensure quality education for all. The PTAs try their best to do fundraising to alleviate the pressure on school fees. Despite all these efforts, the cost to operate a school efficiently and to the benefit of all its learners, is high and school fees are required to balance the budget.
HOW CAN SCHOOLS AND PARENTS RESOLVE THIS ISSUE?
Parents have the right to apply for exemption from paying school fees. Most schools use a sliding scale to determine a percentage of exemption that will apply, depending on the income of the parent or parents, guardian, or whoever is responsible for the account.
Schools, on the other hand, have the right to take legal action against parents who owe school fees and who do not qualify for exemption or partial exemption. Parents are therefore strongly encouraged to communicate with the school. Apply for exemption if your circumstances fit the criteria, or at least have a conversation with the principal if you are experiencing a short term cash flow problem.