Dignity not an issue for private schools when parents can’t pay
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.
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.
Lebogang Montjane, Independent Schools Association of South Africa head, maintains a tough stance on non-payment of school fees