It is back to school for thousands of learners as the amended school calendar for 2021 kicked off today, Monday 15 February.
But some complaints reached the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, about parents being turned away from schools when they cannot pay registration fees.
The department then sent out an urgent public notice that parents are not legally bound to pay registration fees, and demanding schools to not participate in these illegal practices.
“The department is inundated with calls from parents whose children could not be registered in schools due to their inability to pay registration fees. We would like to warn all school governing bodies and principals to refrain from this illegal practice as it puts unnecessary pressure on parents,” reads the notice.
To support this, the department states clearly that “school fees may not include registration fees, administration or other fees”.
Elijah Mhlanga, the spokesperson for the minister, said the number of children turned away over the inability to pay registration fees is not known, because the department only received complaints.
Asking whether this is a problem every year, Mhlanga said this year was the first and it was “due to Covid-19 and loss of jobs. More parents are now feeling the pinch.”
During her state of readiness for 2021 school year speech on Sunday, Motshekga said: “There are other phenomena that parents have raised as serious concerns. There are schools that are reported to be charging parents registration deposits. We must advise schools to avoid such temptations.”
She reiterated that asking for registration fees is illegal and “completely unreasonable, especially as it is done and enforced under the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Parents were urged to report unlawful practices to the nearest district or provincial education department offices.