Shifting of blame hits KZN school
Spotlight falls on school’s policies after pupil placed in solitary confinement
THE case of a Pietermaritzburg pupil who was placed in solitary confinement for three days after her parents defaulted on school fee payments has placed the policies of independent schools in the firing line.
Outraged parents who reacted to the incident on social media this week said the school was wrong and that its policy was unconstitutional.
The school association has urged parents to do their children a favour and take responsibility by paying fees in time. The Independent Schools’ Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) maintained a tough stance on the issue of non-payment of school fees.
Lebogang Montjane, Isasa executive director, said no school excluded a pupil as a first resort.
He said it was, invariably, a desperate last act.
The Sunday Tribune reported that the Grade 10 pupil at the Epworth School was disciplined by being placed in solitary after her parents fell into school fees arrears.
The school charges R60 000 per term.
The parent claimed he was only R12 000 short after facing financial difficulties.
The pupil was unable to interact with her peers or attend classes.
“Often exhaustive efforts are made to contact a parent and communicate with them as to the precise nature of the debt and consequences of non-payment.
“Countless calls, emails and letters are sent home with learners,” she said.
“But, when parents do not communicate with a school, yet keep sending their child to the premises, they knowingly place their child in an awkward situation, seemingly without concern for their child’s discomfort,” said Montjane.
He said these same parents were quick to accuse the school of being “unkind” to a child for excluding them from (unpaid for) classes.
“If anything, schools are excessively mindful of the feelings and needs of the learner and many times, schools will wait patiently for some payment to be made,” said Monjane.
Children’s rights activists spoke out on the Epworth School issue saying that criminal charges should be laid against the school.
Reacting to the incident on social media, Ajith Ramgoon commented: “There is something dastardly wrong with this.
“A school is supposed to be a safe place, so for the principal to say that the pupil was placed in a safe place suggests that she is grossly out of touch with reality.
“They can’t be in the education business. The school lacks compassion.
“The parent should move the child to a good public school where there is more warmth, sincerity and love for the child,” he said.
The school said they could not discuss the specific child as they were prohibited from doing so in terms of various legislation.
They did say that in terms of defaulting parents, the pupils are then moved to a safe place until their parents either collected them or settled the outstanding debt.
They said this was done when defaulters exceeded R100 000.
The Epworth pupil is continuing her studies at the school after the payment issue was resolved.