Dad goes to court after kids suspended from online classes over school fees

03 July 2020 - 19:40
By NIVASHNI NAIR
Durban North Primary School has barred children with outstanding school fees from online lessons
Image: SAMORN TARAPAN/123rf.com Durban North Primary School has barred children with outstanding school fees from online lessons

A Durban father filed an urgent application on Friday asking the high court to order the Durban North Primary School to allow his two children back into virtual classes after they were suspended for defaulting on school fees.

The grade 4 and 7 pupils were denied access to the school's online classes for children with comorbidities or with high-risk family members.

The school has been holding the online classes for children who are unable to attend school. The classes are a live stream of the actual lessons given by teachers to pupils who are able to physically attend school.  

However, in a letter sent out on June 25, the principal said if school or aftercare fees were in arrears, the school would not accept a child's request to join the online class.    

In court papers, the father said his 12-year-old, referred to as K, was asthmatic therefore, after presenting a doctor's certificate to the school, it was decided that his two children would take up the online option.

"Formal lessons started in the first week of June 2020. K attended the online classes whilst other children physically attended school.

"It is instructive to mention that prior to school resuming lessons in accordance with the minister's directive, online classes were already being conducted on an ad hoc basis. Both K and L (the grade 4 pupil) were attending these classes. Both K and L have been suspended from their online classes," the father said.

On Thursday, the children's mother was informed that they were denied access as their school fees were in arrears. She was informed that the decision to suspend children, whose schools fees were not up to date, was taken by the school's governing body.

The mother then wrote to the principal demanding that the school governing body withdraw its decision, however he failed to respond.

In his affidavit, the father admitted that he had defaulted on paying school fees.

He did not disclose the amount owed to the school.

He now wants the court to order the KwaZulu-Natal education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, the school and its governing body to allow his children and any other pupil, affected by the decision, back into virtual classes.

"I have no other remedy to enforce my children's rights. I have, through the intervention of my wife, made several requests, both written and telephonic, to the second respondent requesting to allow all learners access to the online learning platforms. All requests have been denied," the father said in court papers.

His attorney, Pregen Govindasamy, confirmed that the matter would be heard on Monday.

“The actions of the school through its principal is a blatant infringement of the children’s constitutional right to education. The Schools Act prohibits victimisation of children on the basis of their parents not being able to meet their financial obligations. The school's online platform is a live stream of the actual lessons being conducted. To restrict online access to a learner with comorbidities is tantamount to refusing such learner access to the classroom," he told TimesLIVE.

KwaZulu-Natal education departmental spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the department was committed to ensuring that every pupil in the province had access to basic education.

"It is their constitutional right. However, this matter is now going before court so we have to follow the right channels and refer it to our legal team," he said.