Gender Gender

Don’t chase pupils over unpaid school fees

CHILDREN’S CORNER with PANIC CHILUFYA
THE practice by some schools of sending children away for failing to pay or clear outstanding balances is never the best option because such an action not only embarrasses affected children; it also exposes them to ridicule among their peers and colleagues. Children tend to miss out on lessons during their exclusion ,which ultimately affects their grades during assessments.
It reminds me of a colleague whose young daughter was excluded from writing a test because the parents had supposedly not paid the outstanding balance for a particular term. It was later discovered that the fees had been cleared and the little girl was erroneously excluded but the damage had already been done; the act of separating the children in two groups was bad enough.
Due to the embarrassment, for some time, the little girl was unwilling to go back to school, according to her, everyone knew that her parents had not paid her fees. She was afraid that her friends would tease her for not paying her fees and being found in the ‘wrong’ group; this is so because children in their innocence can be ‘cruel’ to each other. It took a lot of persuasion and assurances to eventually get her to go back and according to the mother, for some time, the experience eroded the little girl’s confidence and willingness to learn.
And what about those pupils whose parents or guardians had not actually paid the full amount, was the action acceptable? In my personal view, I think it was unfair to punish children for the omission or failure of their parents and guardians because when children are enrolled, the contracts are between the school and adults and not with the children. Children are just sent to attend class; they are never privy to the conditions attached to their attendance; as such schools should only engage with the adults instead of using children as pawns to compel the adults to honour their part.
Last week the Ministry of General Education, through its spokesperson, Hillary Chipango, warned schools against sending away pupils who fail to pay school fees in full. This follows numerous complaints the ministry has been receiving about authorities sending away pupils for failing to pay fees. The ministry directed that pupils must be allowed to learn as long as parents commit to paying so that pupils are not excluded from classrooms.
“Schools must relax a little and allow pupils to learn as we do not want to disadvantage them,” he said.
He said the ministry was aware of the many economic challenges that most parents were facing and it was important that they are given ample time to meet their obligations.
Schools should be able to come up with workable solutions to ensure that fees are paid on time such as the withholding of results and other measures like penalty fees or accrued interest which would not have a direct bearing on a child’s attendance.
Mr Chipango encouraged schools to devise payment plans which parents should strictly follow.
“Our parents must also learn to fulfil their promises so that schools can trust them to pay later and enable schools to provide quality education,” he said.
Parents and guardians should always negotiate payment modalities with schools when called upon to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of sending children away.
Following this directive, it is equally important for parents to appreciate that most schools depend on fees for operational costs to provide quality education for pupils. It should, therefore, be their responsibility to meet their financial obligations including those pertaining to educational needs in spite of the harsh economic climate almost everyone is experiencing.
When schools and parents begin to work together to find amicable options to resolving this usually vexations issue, it will be a win-win situation for all parties, especially for children who are usually disadvantaged and psychologically affected when they are excluded from attending classes.
Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care.
For comments: pcmalawochilufya@yahoo.com



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