Dig­nity not an is­sue for pri­vate schools when par­ents can’t pay

The Sunday Independent - - 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 brought the poli­cies of in­de­pen­dent schools into the fir­ing line.

Out­raged par­ents who re­acted to the in­ci­dent on so­cial media this week said the school was wrong to have acted in the man­ner t did and that its pol­icy was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

But the In­de­pen­dent Schools As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Africa (Isasa) main­tains a tough stance on the is­sue of non-pay­ment of school fees.

Lebogang Mon­t­jane, Isasa ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, said no school ex­cluded a learner 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 were in ar­rears with school fees which were R60 000 per term.

The par­ent claimed he was only R12 000 short and had fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties which led to him try­ing to raise the money.

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, e-mails and letters are sent home with learn­ers,” he 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.

Mind­ful

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, on so­cial media, Ajith Ram­goon said:

“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 says 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 col­lect them or set­tle 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.

nabee­lah.shaikh@inl.co.za

Lebogang Mon­t­jane, In­de­pen­dent Schools As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa head, main­tains a tough stance on non-pay­ment of school fees

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