Parental consent for a minor child’s enrolment into a school – What can you do if co-guardianship consent is refused?
Children have a right to a decent education—one which would benefit them in life. Every caring parent wants to give their child the best education possible according to their specific circumstances and station in life. Not all parents earn the same amount of money or have access the best type of education. However, most parents will do their best, which the law and society expect of all parents. In doing so, they ensure that their child has the best opportunities in life.
Parents co-operating in educating their minor children
It is vitally important for parents to co-operate when it comes to their minor child’s education. This relates to the enrollment into a school, the paying of school fees, transportation, parent involvement, homework, etc. If one parent does not wish to be involved in the child’s education, they should not hinder or obstruct the other parent from attending to the minor child’s education. For example, if the primary caregiver wants to enrol the minor child into a school, the other parent should co-operate in signing the necessary documents etc. It would be gravely unfortunate if a child’s right to a reasonable education is being prejudiced because the uninterested parent does not want to co-operate.
Parents not agreeing on the school the minor child should attend
Having dealt with the critical aspect of a minor child receiving a decent education and them co-operating; parents sometimes have conflicting views on what type of education is in the minor child’s best interests. Disputes may arise as to what school the minor child should attend or the subjects they should do. Parents being unable to agree on the essential aspects of the minor child’s education can cause severe problems for the minor child’s future. The law does not expect parents to agree on all aspects of the minor child’s education. However, the disagreement should not compromise the minor child’s education. If there is an impasse, a parent must give in. The law, therefore, expects parents to agree on those important issues regarding the minor child’s education and work together on making the minor child’s educational journey as smooth as possible.
Where do most educational disputes stem from?
Most parental disputes regarding a minor child’s education arise when the parents are separated or not living together. Here the reference is made to divorced parents or parents who were in a relationship and now separated. This is unfortunate as the minor child already has to deal with having parents living in separate homes and sharing time with each parent. It is not the minor child’s fault that his or her parents are not together or have issues. An issue may be where one parent prefers a school closer to their home and the other closer to their work. Or a parent prefers the minor child to attend a school which historically excelled in sport or academia.
Issue of affordability of education
Other considerations are that of affordability or the cost of education. One parent may not be able to afford the school fees of the current or new school. These are challenges that are not easy to resolve. When it comes to money issues, it is difficult to find solutions without looking into the parents’ pocket. This also comes with its own challenges. This is so as you would have to firstly deal with the issue of what is a better school for the minor child, and then the issue of affordability, location and so on. It is easy to determine which school is in theory better than the other by ticking off boxes. However, if school fees would not be paid, the exercise may be futile, when dealing with schools outside the affordability bracket of the parents.
When does the issue of a change in schooling arise?
Most of the minor child’s educational disputes between the parents comes to play when the child has to enrol into a new school. Usually in grade R or grade 7. If the child is attending a school, parents would usually not bring up any issues until those grades have been completed (or are soon to be completed). As a primary care giver of your child, you would want to ensure that your child has a school ready to attend the following year. You would also want to ensure that the school is an ideal school, considering the fees, location, subjects they offer and so on. If you leave this issue of application and enrolment into schools too late, you may end up having to enrol your child into as school far from your home or work. It may happen that the school your child ultimately attends do not have the curriculum you want for your child.
Parental consent for enrolment into a new school
Schools require both guardians of a minor child to enrol them into a school. This is especially so if the father’s name is on the birth certificate. If the parents are separated, and either parent is uncooperative, the child may not get accepted into a school timeously or into the best-suited school for him or her. If parents have their own personal issues between the two of them, then the situation becomes worse. One parent may try to use his or her right to consent as leverage for something else. For example, he or she will only consent if her or she does not have to pay any school fees.
What do you do if parental consent is not provided?
If there is a dispute regarding the school your child should attend, and it cannot be resolved between the parents; we suggest you try to mediate the issue with an experienced mediator or family counsellor. If that does not happen because the other parent does not want to partake, or the outcome is unsatisfactory to you, then you would have to approach the Court for assistance in resolving the matter. This is unfortunate as the child is the one who would suffer as he or she would be attending the school. The Court can make an order that only one parent’s consent is required for the enrolment of the minor child into a school.
What does the Court look at when deciding on parental consent?
As always, the court always looks at what is in the minor child’s best interest when it comes to issues surrounding him or her. Therefore, when it comes to parental consent issues in relation to education, the court would have to decide what is best for the minor child. Is it best that the minor child attend school A, or School B.? Before the court so decides, it would firstly hear from both parents. It may even ask the Office of the Family Advocate to first investigate and give their recommendations.
Court overriding the parents rights
If the court orders that School B would be best, then it would order that the parent who does not support School B should provide his or her consent, failing which, his or her consent is dispensed with. This process can take very long and can become very expensive. It would have been best if the parents used their money towards the minor child’s education. At the end of the day, litigation does not serve the minor child in the long run, especially when it comes to his or her education.