The issue of non-payment of fees is a challenge that severely hampers the operations of many schools across the country. That was the view of Glendale High School principal, Achmat Chothia, commenting on an incident in which a Mitchell’s Plain school published the names of 41 students who had not paid fees in the school’s monthly newsletter.
While the community has expressed its disdain on the ‘name and shame’ campaign at Mandalay Primary school, Chothia expressed sympathy for the plight of the school, acknowledging that many other schools face a similar battle to acquire those fees.
According to Chothia, the move by the principal was a further sign of the struggles faced by many schools, who were desperately trying to motivate parents to pay fees. Frustrations were usually at an all time high during this time of year, when many schools were running low on resources and funds. However, he stressed that the method undertaken by Mandalay primary school was not something that could be condoned, as it was ultimately the parent’s responsibility to pay up.
“We can understand that he [the principal] has taken a stance that is perhaps detrimental to himself as well. Naming and shaming them should be aimed at the parents, and we shouldn’t be naming them, but rather trying to be in contact with them at all times,” he said.
Chothia, who also serves on Progressive Principals Association, stressed that schools were required to adhere strictly to the Constitution of the country. He also noted the frustrations of other parents, who were adamant that those with outstanding fees need to pay up.
Manadalay Primary school is reportedly owed in excess of R42 000, with other schools owed even larger amounts. Chothia was critical of the fact that many parents chose to come at the end of the year to pay those outstanding fees.
“We have running costs throughout the year which we have to cover, and it’s very difficult to do that. If one looks at it, there are now no-fee schools where you have the exemption of school fee, and many of our parents are not taking up the option of applying for that exemption,” he explained.
However, the name and shame campaign at Mandalay is not the first time a school has taken such an extreme stance on non-payment of fees. Adiel Ismail, a concerned parent who has dealt with similar cases, said he had noted a shocking trend in this regard. He highlighted a case at a Manenberg high school in 2010, where the principal had withheld the report cards of those with unpaid fees.
“When I contacted the school they acknowledged that the practice was illegal, but they still continued to withhold reports in order to recover those fees,” he noted.
Having subsequently been in contact with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Ismail said the school had been forced into releasing those withheld report cards.
In the case of schools that did not receive the funds they were owed, he said the only real recourse would be to either recover it from government by means of a subsidy, or by upping school fees and charging high admission fees. However, he stressed that such practices, especially in the case of admission fees, would be considered illegal.
“This trend is not only observed at previously disadvantaged schools, but the other side of the fence as well,” he said.
Any parents seeking assistance with any “illegal” practices being conducted by schools are advised to get in contact with Adiel Ismail by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)