“We will shut down the school and make it ungovernable if the principal and SGB withhold reports of our children.”
Those were the words of fed-up parents in Dalton near Greytown, who accused the principal of Cool Air Secondary School, Mandla Phungula, and members of the school governing body of withholding reports and textbooks for pupils.
The parents who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Witness pupils who did not pay a registration fee last year did not receive report cards this year. Parents have also told The Witness that pupils were not provided with stationery and textbooks.
The chairperson of the School Governing Body, Pravesh Sewparsad, refused to comment on the issue, referring all the questions to the principal.
When The Witness contacted Phungula for a comment he asked a journalist to send him questions on e-mail and WhatsApp, but did not respond.
KZN spokesperson for the Department of Education Muzi Mahlambi said: “The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal wants to remind schools that withholding of pupils’ reports/results because of parents’ failure to pay school fees is not permitted.
“The department has on many occasions informed schools that punishing a [pupil] because of parents’ financial challenges is not allowed. Schools are encouraged to discuss with parents and make payment arrangements, without disturbing the child’s education in the process,” Mahlambi said.
One parent said: “I paid a registration fee last year. In January the school refused to give my child a report and demanded a receipt as proof that I had paid. I told them that I have lost the receipt that was issued when I paid.
“I asked teachers to check on the system. I had to ask a ward councillor for help. Until today my child has not received their stationery, ” said the parent.
Ward councillor Sibongile Mbatha urged parents to attend meetings at school. “A parent who came to me said she had paid a registration fee in 2020.
“But according to the information from the school, a payment did not reflect on their system. Therefore, her child’s report was withheld.
“I intervened until the school released a report,” she added.
“The members of the SGB and principal cannot take decisions on behalf of parents if they have not consulted properly. I am aware of the issue arising at Cool Air Secondary. I suspect that the management of the school is taking advantage as parents in this area are not educated.
“It’s unfortunate that while the country is facing pandemic, we have pupils in Cool Air who are deprived of their right to education. We are a community with most people coming from previously disadvantaged families.
“Other parents have lost jobs during lockdown, obviously they will not able to pay a registration fee.
I submitted all the required documents. A few days later I was told that the management of the school has taken a decision not to allow pupils who have not paid a registration fee at the school.”
“There should be a clear and concise communication between the management of the school and parents.”
Mbatha confirmed that parents approached her asking for assistance after the school allegedly withheld their children’s reports.
In terms of Section 25(13) of the National Protocol on Assessment, “Schools may not withhold report cards from pupils for any reason whatsoever.”
The parent of a Grade 2 pupil said: “I was retrenched at work last year and have been struggling to find another job. I applied for the exemption from payment of school fees at the school.
“I submitted all the required documents. A few days later I was told that the management of the school has taken a decision not to allow pupils who have not paid a registration fee at the school,” she said.