Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
Education has become a costly expenditure for most South Africans.
Starting at nursery school level, the cost escalates until it reaches over R20000 a year by the time a child enters university.
To begin with, well-equipped nurseries charge between R250 to R1000 a month. The choice a parent has to make depends on the services offered by the school.
They may offer social skills, literacy, basic numeracy, basic writing and biblical stories.
Most also offer training in the arts, singing, drawing and drama. These are taught using imported teaching methods and the teachers are professionally trained.
Crèches to avoid are those which only offer safe keeping and unsupervised play.
The cost increases when children reach primary school. Bussing children to the suburbs adds to the cost.
Parents in the townships prefer sending their children to former Model C schools as the perception persists that these are better than black schools in their area despite stationery and setbooks being supplied by the school.
The government has also designated some schools in economically depressed areas as no-fee institutions.
School governing bodies often levy monies for other requirements such as extra teachers, grounds staff and caretakers.
There are independent schools whose fees range from R600 to R1200 a month. These schools are gradually acquiring a good reputation after a notorious start as fly-by-night scams.
Educational policies also have to cope with economic downturns. The current credit crunch will leave many parents out of pocket as universities have already raised their fees by up to 15percent.
The average BA degree costs R18000 a year. Rhodes University charges R22380 for a BA while Wits charges R25 990. Residential fees are extra and Wits estimates stationery costs about R5500 a year.
There are also other fees, such as transport, if a student is not living in a university residence.
There are hidden costs which can often break a family's budget. Today's students often need laptops and recorders to keep up with their assignments.
And there are courses offered that demand extensive accessories before a student can enroll. These hidden costs are partly responsible for the dropout rate.
lGladness is a graphics student from the Vaal. She says she spent R2500 last year before even stepping into her first lecture.
She had to buy mounting boards, fashion boards, copy markers in 200 colours, a portfolio bag and special paper at an expensive arts shop. These supplies barely last six months.
Half way through the year her sponsor declined to continue paying for her, saying that the school and the graphics course were too expensive.
She had to drop out in August because she had not completed assignments essential for her practicals. She now works at a coffee shop and is busy saving for all the extras that were not quoted upfront. She plans to return to study in a year or two.
Her roommate, a fashion design student, also finds the financial strain hard.
She had to buy expensive equipment and also come up with the fees at her college.
Clearly, getting a good education demands dedication and lots of cash.