Africa-Press – Eswatini. Despite the ministry of education and training’s warming against sending owing pupils home, some principals are adamant that they will continue sending learners home.
Their reason for this is that, this is the only way that parents can take responsibility of paying school fees or at least engage principals for a payment plan. Some of the interviewed principals said although they understood that depriving children their right to education was wrong, sending owing pupils home to remind their parents to pay school fees had proven effective than any other intervention.
One of the schools where learners were sent home supposedly for owing fees yesterday is Mhubhe High School. In the morning hours, several learners were turned back home even before entering the school premises because they had outstanding fees for the previous academic year.
Some of the learners said they had been turned back home shortly after schools opened for this academic year. They said the school’s deputy usually conducted a morning check at the school’s entrance where learners produce a pass card proving that they had paid school fees.
Those without the cards, according to the pupils, are turned back home to remind their parents to pay.
Some of the learners who were turned back said they had paid but misplaced the pass cards that they were given as proof of payment. When asked why they did not ask the deputy principal to verify with the school’s records if they had paid, the learners said they were told to either produce the card or returnhome.
“They don’t care enough to check in their records, but they want the card from me,” said one pupil.
Some parents said they were concerned because after being turned back from school, some of the pupils roamed the streets and were most likely to end up doing things that they would not be able to do if they were at school.
In response to this, Mhubhe High School Principal Mlungisi Nxumalo denied that owing learners were sent home. However, Nxumalo conceded that it was wrong for parents with outstanding fees to send their children to school without engaging the administration on the challenges they faced and how they planned to settle the fees.
“Parents with financial challenges should first come to school so that we can make an arrangement on how and when they will pay the fees. Parents are also expected to commit themselves in writing,” he stated.
Otherwise, the principal stated that learners who were turned back home were those who had lost text books. Nxumalo said the school used the text-book rental system where pupils rented books for each academic year. In the event that they lose these books, he said parents were expected to pay for them, which was an agreement by both parents and the school’s administration in meeting. In the meeting, the principal said it was agreed that owing learners would be given their end of year reports on the condition that those who owed text books would pay for them.
“We can’t allow them to class without paying for the lost text books because we need to give same to other learners,” Nxumalo said.
Further, he noted that parents usually did not engage the school, but relied on unfounded information from the streets only to find that what they had heard was not true.
Meanwhile, when other principals were asked how they handled owing pupils said they understood the position of the ministry on the issue of sending pupils home for owed fees.
The minister of education Lady Howard-Mabuza said in a press conference a week ago that no pupil should be turned back for owed fees.
“I understand the child is not responsible for outstanding fees, but we need parents to take responsibility by coming to the school so that we can make an arrangement on how they can settle the fees. They should not throw the PS’ statement in our faces and sending their children without a word,” said one principal.
He added that in due course, a parents’ meeting would be convened to discuss lasting solutions to this challenge.
Other principals said in order to get parents to commit themselves to paying their children’s fees, the latter should be sent home more so because the money was needed to pay suppliers as well as the support staff.
“We cannot telephone parents to remind them of outstanding fees because it will cost the school in phone bills, sending learners back is the best option.
We need the money to pay suppliers with whom we had an agreement that they give us stationery for which we will pay after parents have paid fees. We cannot go back to suppliers to ask for this year stationery while we still owe last year’s fees,” said a principal.