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School faces closure over unpaid fees

A SCHOOL in Komani is on the brink of closure as it grapples with thousands of rand in school fee arrears.

Ryser Royal Primary School in New Rest is owed almost R172 000 for this year alone. Thousands of rands had to be written off as irrevocable in the past.

Neville Scharneck, founder of the school, said, “I am sad that things had to boil down to this, but I had no choice. Every year I had to deal with this – parents not honouring their payment arrangements. No business can run at a loss and still have its doors open.”

He first opened the doors of the school seven years ago without any subsidy from the government. The school first needed to be registered with Umalusi – a quality assurance body.

“That alone took me years and cost the school over R300 000, as we had to meet certain standards.

“Despite receiving our accreditation last year November, to date we have nod received any subsidy from the Department of Education.

“And even though we were left without a subsidy, we never denied a child access to the school or from their right to learn. The 14 staff members are always paid on time.

According to Scharneck, Ryser Royal is home to learners from Grade R to Grade 7, has a fixed registration fee of R300 and a maximum monthly school fee of R700 – depending on what grade the learner is in.

“How is the school going to manage to do all this if there is no money coming in?” asked Scharneck.

“’I must say that there are a few good parents who have been paying their accounts, and thus helping us to keep afloat.”

One of the parents who has three kids attending the school has an outstanding account of R17 000.

Scharneck said he had written to parents informing them of the school’s dire situation and urging them to make arrangements to pay outstanding school fees.

However, the parents ignored the communication.

According to him, despite numerous phone calls and letters to parents, inviting them to attend meetings at the school, only a handful make the effort to show up.

“We expect to have at least 200 parents in a meeting, but we only have about 10 people attending,” said Scharneck.

“Other parents no longer take our phone calls, yet they drop their kids off at school every morning.”

He said that the School Governing Body (SGB) is aware of the situation and understands that they have no other choice than to close the school should parents not pay their outstanding school fees.

“’However, the majority of parents, especially those who do not attend meetings, do not understand the severe financial predicament we are in – and how we got to this point.”

Parents are now concerned that their children will not have a school to attend in 2020, as applications have already closed.

According to Scharneck, they now blame the school for not sounding the alarm earlier.

Letters were send to parents as early as February this year, informing them about the school’s financial position, the effects it had and the threats it posed.

The last communication informing them about the closure of the school, was in September this year.

Ulakhe Siyaya, whose child is in Grade 7, said that they are saddened by the situation.

“My child is going to high school next year and will not be affected, but I am concerned about those who never got the opportunity to apply to other institutions,” she said.

The Grade 7 farewell last week, also served as a platform to say goodbye to all the learners and staff members.

The Department of Education could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.

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