Private schools face challenges as parents can’t pay fees due COVID-19 impact

SABC News Aftercare Reuters 1 1 - Private schools face challenges as parents can’t pay fees due COVID-19 impact

Only 20% of parents are paying school fees in private schools. This is according to the National Alliance of Independent Schools Association (Naisa). It says this has resulted in many teachers losing their jobs while some schools face possible closure.

Learners are also being expelled from independent schools due to unpaid fees.

“On the 4th of August, the kids logged in to attend their lessons and they were completely kicked out of the school system and lost their email and all related credentials. So, for example, in addition to losing email and access to Google plus, they lost access to their Spotify account and every single account linked to their school email. As a parent, can you imagine explaining all this to your children? They are not only victimised. They are humiliated,” one parent explains.

Cape Town parent Baveer Beharee says his business has fallen on hard times and now his three children have been expelled from school because he cannot keep up with school fees. He is in arrears to the tune of around R300 000.

Now, both parties are involved in a legal wrangle with the school saying that their attempt to get Beharee onto a payment arrangement has borne little fruit.

Beharee is in the meantime writing to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking for the laws governing private schools to be re-looked at. He wants the president to intervene so that other children in the same predicament are not left stranded.

“The problem with children being suspended from private schools during lockdown is that due to the  numerous ways that schools have adapted to COVID-19 means that it is practically impossible for children to get space at other schools, and actually pick up where they have dropped off in another school.”

But the Naisa says this is usually what happens when a parent can no longer meet their financial obligation at a private school.

President of the Alliance Mandla Mthembu says schools rely on school fees to function and currently 80% of parents in private schools are not paying their dues.

“We feel for the parents out there who have lost jobs, income slashed, salary cuts … we understand that but on the other hand, schools have to run their business, activities, pay teachers, overheads. Without payment of fees, private schools cannot continue. Right now I can tell you the payment of school fees is at 20%.”

The Department of Basic Education says parents have the option of homeschooling or of seeking placement at a public school. Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga says public schools are open to learners at any time of the year unless the grade is full.

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