A Northern Cape school has threatened to lock out pupils from its online learning portal whose parents failed to pay their fees. St Patrick’s CBC school in Kimberley said pupils who owe school fees during the lockdown must be kicked out.
A parent of one of the pupils who owes shool fees and runs a bed-and-breakfast establishment said since the lockdown things have been difficult as there was no money coming in.
The father of a grade 5 pupil said the school sent them a message, saying everybody with outstanding school fees who had not accepted a payment arrangement on file will be blocked from online platforms.
“We were informed by the school to install WiFi or fibre networks in our homes, which added an extra burden financially as they said without it a learner will not be able to access the platform.
“This is a difficult time for us as business people and it does not mean that we will not pay the school fees.
“It is very sad that in the midst of all the turmoil they deem it fit to induce trauma and stress in our lives and those of our children.
“They are now denying our children the right to learn only because parents are owing school fees,” he said.
He said with the little that he had, he had to pay his workers.
Another parent, who sells clothes for a living, said her grade 8 child has been with the school since she was in créche.
“I will definitely pay what I owe the school but what will happen then because she would have lost out on school work during the lockdown period?
“You can imagine how humiliating it is to tell your child that you had not been able to pay her school fees, which is why she can’t do her school work,” she said.
Department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said school fees must be paid.
“At the end of the day all learning for this whole year will be done by the same teachers. School fees are not a service on a month-to-month basis. You pay for the year.”
The parent of a grade 7 pupil said the school would have known that business people don’t have any income during this period.
“We are keeping the saving for immediate expenses. At least they should have asked us to halve the amount because at this stage it is literally impossible to pay anyone.
“I am in the construction business and I haven’t had any income coming in,” he said.
Some parents felt that it’s only fair to pay school fees so that teachers can also be paid.
Milisa Piko, a Western Cape-based parent, said it was only fair for parents to pay their school fees if their salary is not affected during the lockdown period.
“I was raised by a parent whose salary depended on school fees. We have people who depend on salaries for survival. What should they do during lockdown?” she said.
This period has been frustrating for scholar transport drivers as some parents refuse to pay, saying children are at home.
Lucky Xaba, chair of the Benoni Educational Transport Organisation (Beto), said their members were also greatly affected by the lockdown.
“Transporting children to school is a source of income for them and they have families to look after.
“They will not have petrol money when the schools reopen and some of them will even lose their cars as they won’t afford to pay instalments,” Xaba said.
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