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MBABANE – Summoning parents for failure to pay school fees will not change the fact that they do not have the money.

This was an observation of an independent psychologist, Ndoniyamanzi Mdlalose, on national radio yesterday morning. As a result, Mdlalose said government should rather consider negotiations between parents and head teachers as opposed to summoning them to court. She said much as it was understandable that schools could not function without money, summoning parents to court was likely to cause them stress and humiliation as they failed to find solutions to the financial challenges. She said certain factors should be considered in order to make the negotiations effective. She stated that government should consider that some parents permanently lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the ongoing unrest.

Even though Mdlalose did not expand further on the effects of COVID-19 and the unrest, it is public knowledge that the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in permanent closure of some businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic hit hard on those who were employed in the hospitality industry. The unrest on the other hand resulted in the burning of structures and businesses.
Mdlalose stated that some parents were treated like dogs as they engaged head teachers about the owed fees. “Some head teachers do not want to hear the parents’ side of the story. They just shout and treat them like dogs whenever they approach them. It is so painful to see a parent treated like a dog just because he/she doesn’t have money,” she said.

On another note, Madlalose warned parents against making excuses even when unnecessary. She reminded parents that they had all the time to prepare for secondary and high school education when their children benefitted from the free primary education. She said it was a pity that some parents still held the notion that there was no need to educate their children if they themselves were uneducated. “Parents should not be selfish and deprive their children of their fundamental right to education.  Parents should give their children a change to go to school. She also advised pupils to look for odd jobs such as gardening and car washing in order to pay school fees.” Interviewed parents shared that head teachers addressed them while on the other side of the school gate. They stated that the head teachers did not even allow them entry to state their side of the story.


“I tried and failed to pay the full balance for my child who is doing Form I. When I went to the school, the head teacher advised me to settle the balance so that I can have access to my child’s results. I am still trying to raise the money so that I can see the results. Worse is that my child has not been to class pending the release of her results and payment of the deposit for this academic year,” shared one of the parents. He said much as he understood the hardship faced by the head teachers, withholding the result was detrimental to the pupil as she had already missed lessons. Some interviewed head teachers shared that some parents were reluctant to pay school fees. They claimed that some parents could not be located once their children were allowed in class. “If you were to be in my shoes, what would you do about a situation where a parent dumps a child at school and never comes back to pay? We send pupils home so that their parents can come for negotiations. We expect those who have made promises to fulfill them. It is unfortunate that some run to the media instead of doing the right thing for the interest of the pupils,” said a head teacher who preferred anonymity in fear of victimisation.

Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Education and Training Bheki Gama maintained that summons would be issued once the ministry got reports of failed negotiations between the head teachers and parents. Gama said the challenge was that some parents misinterpreted directives and warnings from the ministry. He made an example that when the ministry warned against sending owing pupils home, it did not mean parents should relax and not pay school fees as some perceived. The PS said the ministry expected parents to negotiate for payments while pupils were in class. “We have received information to the effect that some parents made promises but failed to honour them once their children were in class. The head teachers have shared that the parents relied on the ministry’s directive for excuses. Parents should understand that schools could not be operated without money, hence the need for payment. The ministry will be left with no option but to take legal actions against parents who failed to honour their promises after negotiations with head teachers,” he said. Gama added that negotiations were still encouraged.

  Asked if government had issued any summons in relation to owed fees, Gama stated that no parent had been summoned to court so far. When asked about top-up fees, the PS said much as these were agreed upon by parents and the schools, they should not be a reason to send pupils home. He said no child should be sent home for owed top-up.

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