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MINISTRY TO CRACK THE WHIP ON OWING PARENTS

By Nonduduzo Kunene | 2022-05-23

Mbabane - Parents who continuously fail to pay school fees for their children will now be compelled to do so by law.


After continuously ordering head teachers not to send owing pupils home and requesting parents to pay school fees, the ministry has reached the end of its tether.
Bheki Gama, the Principal Secretary, said some parents were abusing the minister’s statement, that head teachers should not send pupils owing school fees home.


Minister Lady Howard-Mabuza had pleaded and ordered head teachers to allow owing learners back to class, while they came up with payment plans with parents.
Gama said the statement meant that everyone should play their part in ensuring the future and education of learners was not affected.


He said instead, some parents did not bother visiting the schools and sent their children to school without engaging the head teachers on a possible payment plan. The PS noted that some parents claimed they did not have money yet they had kraals full of cattle. He said parents were responsible for the education of their children and that meant they were expected to pay, which was why the ministry was consulting on which law to use in holding parents accountable.


The two pieces of legislation the ministry is consulting on are the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Act of 2018, and the Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2012, which is more likely to be used.


Section 9 (1) of the Child Protection and Welfare Act reads “A child has the right to education ……. or any other service for the child’s development. Section 9 (3) states that a child has a right to education regardless of the type or severity of the disability he/she may have”.
Section 18 (1) (b) of the same Act, under the heading ‘Duties and responsibilities of parents and guardians’ states that parents of the child shall not deprive a child of his welfare.


Section 18 (2) (b) states ‘a parent or guardian shall provide guidance, care, assistance and maintenance for the child to ensure the survival and development of that child.’
The Act in Section 19 goes on to state that any person who contravenes a provision of section 18 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than ten thousand Emalangeni (E10 000) or to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or both.


He said they were concerned that some learners were still out of school after being sent home for owing fees.


“It is within every child’s right to be at school. We are currently consulting with the Attorney General on how the existing laws can be used against those parents,” said PS.
Gama said parents were responsible for the education of their children and that meant they were expected to pay, adding that parents who did not pay school fees were denying their children the right to education.


He noted that some parents, mostly of Form I pupils, were not used to paying school fees because they were used to free primary education (FPE).
The PS said it was crucial for parents to pay school fees because schools were run using the fees.  


“Parents should understand that schools are regarded as commercial institutions; this means all bills are given a commercial rate like when paying electricity.”


Gama pleaded with head teachers to assist government and parents by making payment plans, while the ministry consulted on the legislation to hold parents accountable.   
He made an example, whereby it takes a parent more than a month to come up with school fees while the learner was at home.


After the parent settles the fees, the child would have lost a lot of time. He encouraged those who religiously pay the fees and encouraged those who have engaged head teachers on the payment plans.

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