High school in the red

Parents were asked to attend a special meeting at Lavender Hill High School last week to discuss the school's financial future.

Lavender Hill High School is facing bankruptcy if parents do not pay their children’s school fees.

The school called an urgent meeting with parents on Saturday July 23 to highlight their plight and begged them to pay fees.

The school has also appealed to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to make them a no-fee school.

However, Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Shäfer, said National Quintile 4 and 5 fee-charging schools can only become no-fee schools upon invitation and depending on funding.

Lavender Hill High School is in Quintile 4. Quintiles are part of a national system which allocates funding to schools based on where they are located.

Ms Shelver said at this point, the WCED does not have additional funding from the national government to invite other fee-charging schools to become no-fee schools.

“In 2013, the WCED was in the financial position to invite fee-charging schools to acquire the no-fee status. The criteria used was to look at schools who were charging school fees at a maximum of R400, hence the invitation to the previously fee charging schools in Lavender Hill and schools in surrounding areas receiving such an invitation. Lavender Hill’s school fees at that point in time was R900.”
But principal Faseeg Manie said the school can’t cope. “Lavender Hill High’s projection shows that the school will be bankrupt by the end of August because of the parents’ poor culture of school fee payments and will thus not be able to function as an entity.”

Mr Manie, who has been at Lavender Hill High School for 16 years, said they are the only high school serving the community from Lavender Hill to Capricorn. The two primary schools in the area, Hillwood and Levana, are no fee-paying schools, yet their school, by far the, “most impoverished high school and facing the most challenges in terms of gangsterism and other social ills, now have to struggle with the daily upkeep of the school.”

“The WCED are paying Norms and standards of R500 000, while the school has to come up with about R600 000. The allocation towards water and electricity is R35 000. “In theory, our school fees make up for that shortfall. But to get each parent to pay at least R300 a year, is hopeful.”

The maintenance funds are also running dry. The school has received notification to pay its water bill or have it cut. “On July 12 we received notification about our waterbill, we couldn’t afford to pay. In fact, they can cut the water any time if we don’t pay the R59 000 arrears, at the end of August.”

He said the school was trying to get parents to pay their school fees. “But with the high unemployment rate parents may have been struggling to pay. Some parents were probably embarrassed to come to the meeting because they did not pay their fees or they just don’t care.”
Mr Manie said he had hoped parents would come to the meeting even if they did not have the money for fees. “We just wanted them to listen to our situation,” said Mr Manie.

He said the school was already under alot of pressure. “Lavender Hill High can be compared with Manenberg and Hanover Park which are among the most violent areas. Over and above our norms, there is poverty, incest, gang violence. Pupils to give special attention to are those who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities and social problems such as having single parents, and then we have to worry about our school fees as well.”
However, Mr Manie did acknowledge the school’s progress over the years. “We appreciate what the WCED has invested in the technology side, installing computers, putting up a new fence and providing us with a feeding scheme and many more.”

With the necessary resources, he said, the school has developed and pupils were excelling in extra-mural activities. “We have installed a gym, we have internet, a computer room, a hall, a data projector, because we market our school well.”

He said pupils are also advancing in codes such as softball and dance.
“We try our best to keep our morale high,” said Mr Manie, who added that the school also tried to host fundraisers to make up the fee shortfall.
He said as Hillwood and Levana feeder primary schools are no-fee schools, parents needed to change their mindset about paying fees. “Our pupils come from these schools and their parents are used to not paying any school fees,” said Mr Manie.

“We are appealing for assistance. We cannot be just ignored. The school won’t have any money by the end of September.”

Teachers may not be able to keep smiling for much longer because, “they say they want to teach and not worry about if the pupils didn’t pay school fees”.
Esme Schippers, chairwoman of the Student Governing Body (SGB), told parents she would be visiting them to talk about “investing their money in education”.
Ms Shelver said they were still waiting on feedback from the District Office on the financial management at the school.
“Generally, the school has the option, via the District Office, to apply for financial assistance via a bank loan or overdraft facility to assist with cash flow challenges,” she said.

He said almost a 1 000 pupils attend the school and are struggling to pay their fees.

“The WCED are paying Norms and Standards of R500 000, while the school has to come up with about R600 000. The allocation towards water and electricity is R35 000. In theory, our school fees make up for that shortfall. But to get each parent to pay at least R300 a year, is hopeful.”

The maintenance funds are also running dry. The school has received notification to pay its water bill or have it cut. “On July 12 we received notification about our water bill, we couldn’t afford to pay. In fact, they can cut the water any time if we don’t pay the R59 000 arrears, at the end of August.”

He said the school was trying to get parents to pay their school fees.
“But with the high unemployment rate parents may have been struggling to pay. Some parents were probably embarrassed to come to the meeting because they did not pay their fees or they just don’t care.”
Mr Manie said he had hoped parents would come to the meeting even if they did not have the money for fees. “We just wanted them to listen to our situation,” said Mr Manie.

He said the school was already under a lot of pressure. “Lavender Hill High can be compared with Manenberg and Hanover Park which are among the most violent areas. Over and above our norms, there is poverty, incest, gang violence. Pupils to give special attention to are those who suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities and social problems such as having single parents, and then we have to worry about our school fees as well.”

However, Mr Manie did acknowledge the school’s progress over the years. “We appreciate what the WCED has invested in the technology side, installing computers, putting up a new fence and providing us with a feeding scheme and many more.”

With the necessary resources, he said, the school has developed and pupils were excelling in extra-mural activities. “We have installed a gym, we have internet, a computer room, a hall, a data projector, because we market our school well.”

He said pupils are also advancing in codes such as softball and dance.
“We try our best to keep our morale high,” said Mr Manie, who added that the school also tried to host fundraisers to make up the fee shortfall. He said as Hillwood and Levana feeder primary schools are no-fee schools, parents needed to change their mindset about paying fees. “Our pupils come from these schools and their parents are used to not paying any school fees,” said Mr Manie.
“We are appealing for assistance. We cannot be just ignored. The school won’t have any money by the end of September.”

Teachers may not be able to keep smiling for much longer because, “they say they want to teach and not worry about if the pupils didn’t pay school fees”.
Esme Schippers, chairwoman of the School governing body (SGB), told parents she would be visiting them to talk about “investing their money in education”.
Ms Shelver said they were still waiting on feedback from the district office on the financial management at the school. “Generally, the school has the option, via the district office, to apply for financial assistance via a bank loan or overdraft facility to assist with cash flow challenges,” she said.
One of the parents who attended the meeting on Saturday, but who asked to remain anonymous, said she cannot afford to pay her son’s school fees because she is unemployed.

“I don’t have any other income. However, I prefer my son to go to Lavender Hill High, because my sisters and I also attended the school.”