Friday, 23 May 2014

Schools sue parents over unpaid fees

Sifundiso Ndlovu Chronicle Reporter—
SCHOOLS have started suing parents over non-payment of fees after the government gave them the green light to seek legal recourse on fees defaulters. The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Lazarus Dokora, is on record saying schools have no right to send pupils home over fees because the contract to pay is between the parents and the respective school.

Since then, a number of schools in Bulawayo have engaged debt collectors who have swooped on parents in a bid to recover monies that they are owed.

The debt collectors are sending parents letters of demand, with threats of taking the matter to court if payments are not made.
In one letter of demand written to a parent whose child attends Baines Junior School in Bulawayo, litigation was threatened if the outstanding school fees was not paid.
Minister Dokora
“May you make arrangements to pay the total of this amount to us at… Watsall Road, Thorngrove, Bulawayo, or contact the author of this letter within 48 hours of the date of receiving to discuss about the payment if you are not able to make it immediately,” reads part of the letter.

“Failure to do so may result in litigation through the courts at your cost and leading to attachment of your property.”
Once parents are handed over to the debt collectors, they are required to pay an administration fee and collection commission on top of the fees.

A concerned parent with a pupil at the school who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation said she owed the school $76 but the debt collectors were now demanding $113.

She added that when she went to the school in an attempt to settle the matter, she was referred back to the debt collectors.
“Debt collectors are claiming $113 but what is surprising is that they say the $30 is for administration costs,” said the parent.

An official with a debt collecting firm confirmed that schools were coming to secure their services.
“Some schools have approached us for services. I cannot, however, reveal confidential information between us and our clients,” he said.
Bulawayo Provincial Education officer Dan Moyo said he does not have statistics on schools that have sent defaulting parents to debt collectors.

“I don’t have the statistics at hand. It’s up to schools to seek legal recourse to recover fees as ordered by the minister,” said Moyo
A visit to some schools by Chronicle showed that some of them are now displaying the ministerial directive not to send children home on their notice boards.

Minister Dokora said no student should be expelled.

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