Shift­ing of blame hits KZN school

Spot­light falls on school’s poli­cies af­ter pupil placed in soli­tary con­fine­ment

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS - NABEELAH SHAIKH

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.

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