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School fee exemption nightmare for single mother

Single mother Jacqueline Bester wants to inform other parents about their rights when it comes to exemption of school fees.

Jacqueline Bester, a single mother living in Potchefstroom is drained after a long fight for exemption of school fees.

“In 2021 I applied for exemption of school fees for my child. If you receive a SASSA grant for a child, you are automatically exempted from paying school fees,” Jacqueline says. “In 2023 I got a letter from the school my child goes to that states I owe the school money. I’ve tried countless times to clear up this misunderstanding.”

Jacqueline further states that after the school got lawyers involved, the case was handed to Verycredit and she is now expected to pay in segments until the amount has been paid. Jacqueline refers to the owed amount as a registration fee or a first payment fee.

“First payments or registration fees are illegal,” Jacqueline states and refers to information that she found on official government websites regarding school fees exemption and registration fees. “Registration fee is malpractice in all public government fee-paying schools. Registration fee is illegal, you as a parent need to complete the attendance registration form the school may send and indicate that your child will be or not be attending that school the following academic year. There is no cost to this,” Jacqueline states.

Jacqueline goes on to explain textbook fees and stationery, “You only pay for books that are worked in as that is non-returnable. If you child loses a book, report it to the school. You are liable to replace or pay for that book. Text books are loaned to your child for the year in that grade. They are expected to keep that book in good condition and return it at end of year.” Jacqueline explains with regards to stationary, “You are not forced by any law to purchase the stationery pack offered by schools. You request the stationery list the school must give it to you.”

“I know the laws and my rights when it comes to school fees exemption,” Jacqueline explains and urges all parents to find out if they qualify for fee exemption, as well as be sure about other matters such as registration fees, textbook fees, stationary, and other fees dependent on the school. “It’s important to me that this information is shared with parents. I know a lot of single moms that struggle the same way I do. It is the law of this country that your child is permitted to receive a good education. Parents who can’t pay registration fees are being penalised and it’s not fair.”

Jacqueline concludes by saying that the Education Department of Northwest has disappointed her since 2021, but that hopefully everything will be resolved in the near future.

Dr. Jaco Deacon, Executive Head of FEDSAS, gave an outline of possibilities as to what may have occurred. “It is possible for someone who got 100% exemption for a particular year to have historical debt for a previous year in which she may not have applied for exemption,” Dr. Deacon states. “However, if it is for the release year, there is also an exception. The regulation provides that if a person’s circumstances have changed, the exemption can also be adjusted. For example, someone has work for the first 3 months of the year, but may qualify for partial exemption, but is then retrenched later. The 100% exemption will then only apply from the date of retrenchment and the person remains liable for the first few months’ payment.” Dr. Deacon further states School laws place a ban on a registration fee. “First payment is only ‘mandatory’ when the school year starts, and only to parents who did not receive exemption or partial exemption,” Dr. Deacon states.

Sue Larkan, activist and owner of TABANSI, makes herself available to all parents who are struggling with school-related issues. “I deal with school matters such as fees and admissions, mainly public schools. I have been working as an activist for 28years, for the rights of learners and parents who have issues at schools. I also assist with bullying and unfair expulsion. My services are available nationally,” Sue says.

“I work as a sole proprietor, the NGO was dissolved when 5 of my members passed on,” Sue continues to tell her story. “I started this way back in 1997 during my own horrific journey of 5 years. I sat at court handing out business cards and started teaching people how to defend their cases.  There is to my knowledge no one else that does what I do.”

Sue Larkan can be reached by 076 554 6657 or an email can be sent to infotabansi@gmail.com.

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