Withholding Reports Because of Non-Payment of School Fees Is Illegal
A learner cannot be excluded from participation in any official school programmes due to non-payment of school fees by the parent. A school may not retain a learner’s report because the parent cannot afford to pay school fees.
Section 41 of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 regulates the payment of school fees, exemptions and the enforcement of the payment of school fees. This provision primarily applies to public schools. Similarly, private schools cannot withhold reports and transfer certificates due to non-payment of school fees.
Where schools (private and/public) can recover school fees and any arrear payments by approaching a court. However, during this time pending the outcome of the court process, the child may not be excluded from school and/or school activities.
Section 40 of the South African Schools Act deals with who must pay school fees. Where a parent fails to pay school fees and there is no exemption that has been granted, a school cannot discriminate against the learner.
A learner may not be deprived of his or her right to participate in all aspects of the programme of a public school despite the non-payment of school fees by his or her parent and may not be victimised in any manner, including but not limited to the following conduct:
- Suspension from classes;
- verbal or non-verbal abuse;
- denial of access to:
- cultural, sporting or social activities of the school; or
- the nutrition programme of the school for those learners who qualify in terms of the applicable policy; or
- denial of a school report or transfer certificate.
Where a school has acted unlawfully, by not following this section, a parent may approach them and inform them of their unlawful activity. Where the school continues to act against this law, a parent may approach the relevant Department of Education for assistance.
Although the South African Schools Act is primarily directed at public schools, this does not exempt private schools. Certain provisions of the South African Schools Act applies to both private and public schools.
In terms of section 25(12) and section 25(13) of the National Protocol on Assessment 2011, a school may not withhold a report card for any reason. This regulation applies to both public and independent schools from Grade R – 12.
Section 25(12) states that the parents or guardians have the right of access to report cards of
their children. Section 25(13) states that schools may not withhold report cards from learners for any reason whatsoever.
For a parent to receive an exemption, they must apply to the school. The exemption from payment of school fees will be decided by the school and communicated to the parents. Where the parents are not happy with the outcome, they may appeal to the school. The school must communicate the processes and procedures in applying for an exemption.