South Africa
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Anger as KZN school withholds pupils' reports for nonpayment of fees

The annual practice of some schools illegally withholding pupils’ end-of-the-year report cards because of outstanding fees or pupils' failure to return textbooks has reared its ugly head once again.

On Friday, Lenarea Secondary School in Phoenix, north of Durban, forced parents who owed fees to pay up or make payment arrangements before they were given their children’s school reports.

In December last year, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said that the law does not allow schools to withhold pupils' reports.

TimesLIVE saw a photograph of a queue of desperate parents at Lenarea waiting to pay so that they could get the report cards.

A senior teacher at the school also confirmed that parents were queuing to pay fees owed.

“Parents went and raked up R50, R100 and came back and they got their report. They made payment arrangements for the outstanding balance which they signed.”

He said the school was owed several million rand in fees and that next year’s fees had been reduced by R350 — from R1,850 to R1,500 — to cater for battling parents.

“Over 200 parents came today just to pay. We are coming to a very amicable agreement around payment.”

He said because the school was classified as quintile 5 or a so-called wealthy school, they only received a subsidy of R179 per pupil from the government this year.

“The grass at the moment is knee high and it’s the snake season. If a snake attacks a child, I can’t tell the parent we had no money to cut the grass,” he said.

He said they were sympathetic to the financial difficulties parents were facing, adding: “But there are those who drive luxury cars and wear expensive clothes but plead poverty. A parent is officially unemployed but runs a flourishing panel-beating business.”

An administrative staff member of the school admitted that a parent would not be handed a report card unless outstanding fees were paid and textbooks returned.

“It’s very vital they return the textbooks because I am sure the child wants to know whether he or she passed or not.”

​Imran Keeka, a member of the provincial legislature in KwaZulu-Natal, who is the DA’s spokesperson on education, said the withholding of reports was illegal.

“Principals should know this by now. While there has to be a balance between arranging to pay fees by parents and the schools' responsibility to collect fees, parents can't be strong-armed into doing so.”

Sibusiso Kheswa, district director for Pinetown, said the circuit manager had spoken to Lenarea Secondary and “the matter has been sorted out”.

“Administratively, they are not allowed to withhold reports. If the school is owed money, they have their ways of demanding it but a report is not the way to do that.”