Illegal for schools to withhold reports

Press release from Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer:
Schools will issue report cards to learners across the province this week when the academic year ends for learners on 6 December 2017.

My office has already received a number of complaints from parents that schools have refused to release their children’s reports cards because the parents have not paid outstanding school fees.

Section 41 (7) of the South African Schools Act says that learners may not be deprived of their rights to participate fully in school programmes, this includes receiving a report card. This regulation applies to both public and independent schools from Grade R – 12.

However, we are aware that in some cases, schools ask parents to fetch the reports. They then use this opportunity to discuss outstanding fees. Schools deny that they are withholding report cards in these cases.

There is nothing preventing a school from requiring parents to collect the reports at school.

If the reports are then withheld for any reason, the department will investigate complaints and will take further action as required.

While we understand and sympathise with many schools that are battling to collect school fees from parents, especially when some parents can clearly afford them, discriminating against a learner for the financial decisions or position of a parent is against the law and will not be tolerated.

We appeal to all parents to report such a practice to their nearest district office should this be happening in their child’s school. I also urge all principals to release learners’ report cards on the date specified.

We would, however, like to appeal to parents to try and settle their outstanding fees, if they are in the position to do so.

They are reminded that schools can take legal action against parents who owe fees and who do not qualify for exemption or partial exemption. School fees remain an important source of additional funds in public schools and the SGB has every right to take legal steps to recover those fees.

Parents can, however, qualify for exemption, for example, if the school fees are more than 10% of the parents’ combined annual salary.

There are processes in place to assist parents who genuinely cannot afford their school fees. This year, the WCED made over R49 million available to assist Quintile 4 and 5 schools who are struggling to collect school fees from poorer parents.

We are also cognisant of the fact that some parents’ financial positions can change overnight.

Regardless of the parent’s financial position – our principals cannot discriminate against our learners.

Parents are requested to contact the District Office to lodge complaints.

It must be noted that Section 41 (7) of the South African Schools does not prevent an independent school from using other means, such as legal action, to obtain fees that may be overdue in terms of the contract between the school and a parent.

It also does not prevent an independent school from excluding a learner for non-payment of fees, provided due process is followed.

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