ActionSA Writes to Western Cape Education MEC Demanding Protection of Children’s Rights

ActionSA has written to Western Cape MEC for Education, David Maynier, requesting that he:

  1. Issue an instruction to all School Governing Bodies of no-fee schools in the Western Cape to immediately stop the practice of requiring parents to pay fees and purchase stationary.
  2. Urgently provide all children in no-fee schools in the Western Cape with the necessary stationary.
  3. Conduct an investigation into the extent to which no-fee schools in the Western Cape have been demanding that parents pay fees and provide stationary.
  4. Ensure that any fees paid, or stationary purchased, following such a demand, be reimbursed.

There is a wide-spread practice amongst no-fee schools in the Western Cape that parents are forced to provide stationary and pay fees.  There is, for example, a common requirement that parents must provide 4 reams of Typek paper per child (sometimes per term).  ActionSA has heard from parents that if this paper is not purchased, that child does not receive the printed learning material that is handed out in class.

ActionSA has also been told of the distress indigent parents feel because their children have not been provided with writing books and are therefore not able to participate along with the other children in class.

It is clearly established that no-fee paying schools are not allowed to ask parents to pay any form of registration or upfront fee.  Schools are permitted to ask for donations, but this should be completely voluntary.  The same must apply to stationary: requiring parents to buy stationary is simply requiring a fee in another form.

The exclusion of learners from participating fully in class because of their parents’ inability to purchase stationary is an unacceptable infringement of the child’s rights, as set out in our Constitution.  Children have the Constitutional rights to:

  1. Equality – which includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms (s9).
  2. Human Dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected (s10).
  3. Protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.  Furthermore, a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child (s28).
  4. Basic education (s29).

ActionSA has given MEC Maynier 7 (seven) days within which to confirm that he will take the steps requested, failing which ActionSA will lay a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission, so that Western Cape children’s rights are protected.