Angry parents protesting outside Belgravia High School last Friday accused the school of refusing to take their children because of unpaid school fees.
The parents claimed they couldn’t afford the R2 000 deposit so the school had not enrolled their children, even though it had already sent them Grade 8-acceptance letters last year.
The group said the principal would not agree to a payment plan and would only take children of parents who had paid.
The parents, who claimed to represent 25 pupils, were supported at the school gate by the EFF.
The parents said the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had ignored their pleas, but, with the help of the EFF, they had got the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to meet with the principal.
Yasmin Mohammad, one of the parents, said: “Our children have been registered last year already.”
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Visibly angry, Mohammad continued: “We are sitting here with acceptance letters, but we are told there is no space because we don’t have the R2 000 deposit towards the R6 500 annual school fees. The principal told me I must go borrow money if I don’t have it. We want our children in school today.”
René Pitcher said she had seen her child’s name in the acceptance book, but her child had been turned away on Wednesday January 15.
Another parent, Pat Sweleni, said he had been unable to eat or sleep.
“They do not care about our children’s future. We already bought uniforms and it is expensive,” he said.
Michelle Forbes said she was unemployed, and the school had refused to let her pay R200 towards the fees and pay off the rest.
The acceptance letter signed by school principal André Buis, which Athlone News has a copy of, says admission for the pupil has been “favourably considered” and then adds that “part payment of school fees of R2000 is payable upon registration”.
The letter, which appears to be undated, notes registration was until August 30 last year.
Community activist Abdurahman Khan said it was illegal for the acceptance letter to refer to a school-fees deposit.
“This practice must end. They are marginalising the poor, and it’s unacceptable. The WCED turns a blind eye; they keep saying they are investigating, but the question is, what are they investigating? They never once mentioned that parents can apply for school-fee exemption. This school was one of the schools that were at the forefront in the fight for equality, and now this. Some of the parents here today will lose a day’s work.”
When approached for comment, Mr Buis referred the Athlone News to the WCED.
WCED spokeswoman Millicent Merton said that according to the South African Schools Act, schools may not charge a deposit or fees for registration, re-admission or pre-admission testing, or any other fees at the time of application.
“School fees, and any other fees, may only be charged after the learner has been informed in writing of his or her acceptance for admission to the school,” Ms Merton said.
Schools must inform parents about school-fee exemption and parents can’t be denied a chance to apply to the governing body for a fee exemption.
Ms Merton said district-office representatives had met with the parents and their complaints were being dealt with.
The SAHRC’s Commissioner, André Gaum, and senior legal officer, Zena Nair, later spoke to the protesting parents. Ms Nair
said they had resolved nine of the cases and those children would be accommodated at the school.
“As adults, we must be responsible and apply on time,” she told the parents.