Sunday Tribune - - LETTERS -

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.

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