EXPENSIVE LESSONS SCHOOLS SUFFER
THE article, “Pupil placed in solitary over unpaid fees” refers. The constitution establishes two types of schools: public and independent. According to the constitution, independent schools must operate at their own cost, while public schools are funded by the state.
This means all the facilities, resources and services of an independent school must be paid for by the school.
Fees are the primary, if not the only, income for independent schools that they use to offer a quality educational service to their pupils.
Defaulting parents pose a sustainability risk for the independently funded school, yet are quick to argue for the “rights of the child” and blame the school, ironically, and not themselves, for “denying the child an education”.
The responsibility to provide basic education is carried by the state and not independent schools.
It should be noted that remunerating educators remains the primary expense for independent schools, accounting for 60% to 70% of a school’s budget.
Consequently, if parents neglect to pay fees for their children’s education, the school, in turn, cannot pay the educators responsible for that education. One could hardly expect people to attend work who did not receive a reliable salary.
Furthermore, an obligation to pay independent school fees is never foisted upon unwilling parents. Parents seek out, apply for and sign a contract that clearly outlines their responsibility to pay school fees to an independent school.
In short, sending one’s children to an independent school is a choice, not an obligation.
In addition, other educational options exist. There is a wide range of quality schools, independent and public, with an equally diverse fee requirement.
This means that parents can find a school that best meets their needs and falls within their means.
The concept of informed choice was one of the findings of the Pietermaritzburg High Court in the St Charles College v Du Hequet de Rauville and others case.
Non-payment of independent school fees is a breach of contractual obligations by the signatory and is enforceable by law.
Judge President Jappie clearly stipulated there was no legislative provision that precluded an independent school from attaching the immovable property of parents who were in debt to the school and, therefore, immovable property was declared executable for the purpose of enforcement of the payment of outstanding school fees.
Parents who elect to send their child to an independent school must be aware that defaulting on school fees could result in the loss of immovable or movable property at execution.
It is important to note that no school excludes a pupil as a first resort. It is, invariably, a desperate last act.
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, e-mails and letters are made or sent. But, when parents do not communicate with a school, yet keep sending their child to it, they knowingly place their child in an awkward situation, seemingly without concern for their child’s discomfort.
Yet these same parents are quick to accuse the school of being “unkind” to a child for excluding them from (unpaid for) classes.
If anything, school administrators are mindful of the feelings and needs of the pupil and wait patiently for some payment to be made – often in vain.
Schools are well aware of the economic environment as they work to balance their books and remain fiscally sound.
Parents who are battling to pay school fees should tell their child’s school.
It might be possible for the school to structure payments for a period, in such a way as to ease the burden.
However, if parental financial difficulties persist, they should explore more affordable schooling options for their child.