Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay the school?

I need advice on an issue concerning my contract with a school that my daughter used to attend in Phikwe. I was transferred from Phikwe as my employer was closing our office there and I had a contract a school which had a clause on serving notice if a student is transferred from their school.

I notified the principal verbally in March 2017 as soon as I was notified of the office closure, that I will be transferring my daughter to Gaborone as soon as I got a date for the indefinite closure. I was advised to write a letter by the school head, and I delayed, ultimately my moving date came and I failed to make time to go to the school. The school head called me and informed that I have to pay a full term notice to them. I tried to talk to her and make her understand that my relocation was not an intentional move by me, it was a decision taken by my employer and I had no control over it. She was adamant about this. I however moved to Gaborone without making a payment to the school.

In May the school head called me and threatened that I write a commitment letter to make payments and I did but failed to commit as per the letter. I have since been summoned to court in Phikwe to answer for a debt of the full term fees to the school. I need advice or a legal person you can refer me to as I feel I am being treated unfairly.

Firstly, I should state that I’m not an attorney so obviously I can’t offer legal advice. However, simply as a layperson I suspect you have no excuse. Firstly, you signed a contract with the school which explained what would happen if you withdraw your child. The contract includes a clause which says that you “understood that a full term written notice is required when withdrawing a child at any level from the school and that failure to do this will place me liable for an entire terms notice”. You admit that you didn’t do this.

Secondly you later signed a commitment letter saying that you would pay this fee and again you failed to do this. The school was within its rights then to go to court to get an order against you to pay the debt you’ve twice admitted in writing you owe but have still failed to pay.

I suggest that you contact the school and come to some agreement about paying the debt you owe them. However, given that you’ve twice failed to abide by such an agreement, don’t expect them to be very flexible!

Can they strip-search or punish me?

Sir does a security guard have the right to search me on suspicion of theft in a shop or do they have the right to order me to undress. Does the shop owner have permission to punish me even if they have caught me with a stolen item? 

No, they certainly do NOT have the right to search you. And they certainly don’t have the right to make you undress or to “punish” you, no matter what the situation. Any store or guard who does that has abused you and has grossly overstepped their powers.

The only right that a store has, and this includes security guards, is the same right that any private person has, and that’s to arrest someone that they believe has, or might have committed, a serious crime. That includes theft. But that’s all they can do. They can’t search you or your belongings regardless of the circumstances. Only a police officer can do that. All a store or an individual can do is detain you until the police arrive.

In a case a few years ago, a brave woman who had been forced to submit to a search of her bags as she was leaving a store took the security company who had abused her to court and won her case. She was then awarded P60,000 in compensation from the security company. The judge explained that she deserved this, ”considering the humiliation embarrassment and impairment of her dignity as an honest member of society”.

It actually doesn’t matter whether you’re “an honest member of society” or a criminal, either way you have rights and those rights cannot be abused.

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