SCHOOLS can take parents to the small claims court over unpaid fees of up to $5,000 per child, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Dr Lazarus Dokora told about 1,500 secondary school heads that the small claims court would soon be empowered to handle claims from schools amounting up $5,000. He told the school heads that rural schools can also utilise traditional and community courts presided over by chiefs.
The Constitution, the minister said, prohibits the exclusion of pupils from school for non-payment of fees. He said this while responding to questions by school heads attending the National Association of Secondary School Heads (Nash) annual conference, who sought clarity on how schools can recoup money owed by parents in unpaid fees.
Dr Dokora said Cabinet was deliberating on the issue and the small claims court would soon be able to handle cases with debts of up to $5,000. “The issue of exclusion of children from school is a Constitutional issue and it makes it illegal to exclude a pupil from school because of fees. Talk to parents instead,” said Dr Dokora.
Dr Dokora said previously the small claims court dealt with small amounts that made it not feasible for schools to approach them to recover their money. He urged schools to make comprehensive lists of their debtors and approach the courts.
The Minister said parents would then be invited to “swear on how they will pay up the money in court.’’
Some school heads were reluctant to drag parents to court for fear of meeting the wrath of the community, he said, but assured them they would be merely executing their duties as heads of institutions.
Parents have in the past been encouraged to pay fees for their children as schools were hamstrung by lack of finances.
In May, Dr Dokora said only boarding schools are allowed to send children home for not paying fees while others are not allowed to do so.
The Nash conference started on Tuesday and ends today. It is being held under the theme: “The new curriculum: Opportunities and challenges.” chronicle