Durban - Parents wanting to get their children into top schools are resorting to attaching fake utility bills and lease agreements to their applications to try and fool schools into believing that they live nearby.

Already inundated with three times too many applications, popular schools were now having to dedicate time and resources to playing detective.

They were going as far as knocking on doors to verify the addresses on school applications.

Governing body associations have warned that parents who produced fraudulent documents to have their child enrolled at a school would see the application nullified and they would be reported to the police.

The principal of a respected KwaZulu-Natal school said it had been receiving an increasing number of bogus applications, including false affidavits and lease agreements. With each application, the school checked the pupils’ addresses with their primary schools.

The principal said that the school had a duty to those parents who legitimately applied for a place at the school, and that parents who were dishonest put their children at a disadvantage.

Another principal, also from a highly regarded school, said this had been occurring for years, but that on the whole parents did not try their luck because the school had adopted measures such as requesting municipal bills and physically confirming that home addresses were correct.

“Many parents are desperate for quality education and so will do anything within their powers to try to gain a position,” the principal said.

Paul Colditz, the head of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas), said that with the onerous task of trying to verify information falling on schools in KZN and elsewhere, the federation was advising its members to report to the police where there was proof that parents had acted unlawfully.

Tim Gordon, the head of the Governing Body Foundation, said that “blatant dishonesty” on applications for school admission had become “a growing problem”.

Gordon said he knew of instances where parents were buying electricity and water bills from strangers to fool the school of their choice into believing they lived nearby.

In one case, where a house was sold, a parent rented a home for the month before the new owner took occupation – and then applied to the nearby school using that address, despite never moving in.

Gordon believed that if parents resorted to fraud, the school had every justification to declare the application null and void, and inform other schools in the vicinity of the parents’ actions.

The KwaZulu-Natal Education Department was unperturbed, saying that none of its school district managers had reported a problem.

“If it doesn’t disturb education, it’s okay. There’s no one who does not know it’s criminal to lie on an affidavit…

“You and I may know that this is or was happening, but how does it disturb education?” said the department’s spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi.

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The Mercury