Consumer Claims Tribunal
School Fees Administration Program
Fair & Reasonable
The aim of this program is to support public schools and its parents to ensure a strict school fees payment regime within the framework of the law that is fair and reasonable. Accepting that all parties have the best interest of learners at heart, the only approach with a reasonable expectation of success, is one that incorporates discussion and negotiation but with the power to enforce payment by defaulters.
The only viable process presently that accommodates this approach is conciliation and arbitration with the consensual understanding that payroll deductions shall be employed, as legally provided for, to ensure adherence to the final resolution. And should this not be enough, the process always enjoys the support of the High Court and its instruments of execution.
Although it may sound foreign and complicated to many, the process is actually very simple. A conciliator/arbitrator is appointed and together with the school urges default parents to negotiate and settle payment on a realistic payment schedule. This can be done in person or via electronic means. If the issue cannot be resolved, the arbitrator will decide for the parties.
Finally, the resolution is converted into an award that requires the parents to make payments accordingly. Promises of payment alone is however no longer sufficient. Although parents are given every opportunity to make payments, default will result in payments being deducted from their salaries. If necessary, the award can simply be converted into a judgment of the High Court and executed accordingly.
This process is provided for in the Arbitration Act, no 42 of 1965.
It generally is practice to wait until September/October before default accounts are handed over for collection. In doing so, the debt only escalates. This program does not constitute “handing over for collection” and ought to be implemented as soon as possible during the school year.
Schools generally do not require payment of the full amount of school fees all at once. Payment can either be done at the beginning of each term or in a few monthly instalments. Although this is a reasonable approach, it is seriously suggested that any extension of payment be subjected to a conciliation and arbitration agreement in order to provide for those parents defaulting on payments.
It adds an additional option to the school, other than being left vulnerable with only a choice between a very expensive and unproductive legal process or the toothless, harassment approach of debt collectors. To implement the process, a standard settlement agreement is introduced which provides for a professional process with an enforceable resolution.
This is the only process that recognises the prime importance of the education of learners and the unique relationship between their parents and the school’s governing body in support thereof. It is the only process that leaves room for the responsible accommodation of the fluidity created by the provision of exemptions. This ‘conciliatory but firm’ approach ensures a healthy relationship between school and parents. And extremely important :- All payments are only received by the school itself, leaving no room for fraud or maladministration by a third party.
The costs of this process are generally lower than both the formal, legal debt collection system and the harassment approach of debt collectors. In the spirit of this process, costs is generally divided equally between school and parents. Where schools, however, do not provide pre-payment of costs, security for payment from the first available funds is required.
The service is available to all public schools throughout South Africa subject to the condition that all communications in places out of our personal reach, shall be conducted electronically.
The Consumer Claims Tribunal (CCT) is a company not for profit with the vision of making mediation and arbitration in terms of the Arbitration Act available for day to day issues arising between consumers and service/goods providers. Until now it has been the reserve of the elite, the rich and the big companies and institutions. It has also been reserved for intricate and complex disputes with retired judges, council and specialists acting as arbitrators.
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