Relief for poor parents

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

Relief is on the way for parents who are increasingly finding it difficult to pay their children's shool fees.

As of last year, 40percent of about 26292 South African public schools were declared no-fee schools.

This applies to government schools only.

Schools are divided into five categories called quintiles. The categories are decided on the basis of where the school is located, the monetary wealth of the community and physical conditions such as overcrowding.

Those in the poorest two or even three categories are supposed to become "no-fee" schools. This means pupils at these schools do not have to pay any fees, even for school activities such as sports.

Education Department spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele yesterday said: "The no-fee schools are a way that government is assisting in alleviating poverty and also ensuring that all children receive quality education."

He said it was up to the provincial education departments to increase the number of no-fee schools.

"Provinces voluntarily increase their no-fees schools and the government will subsidise the school according to the number of children who do not pay fees at the school."

Phillipa Tucker of the Education Law Project said: "By law, no fees may be charged by any government school for a learner who is in foster care, a youth-care centre or place of safety, or an orphan living in an orphanage.

"[Or] anyone who has been placed in the care of a family member known as the kinship caregiver or who is the head of a household, or part of a child-headed household; or whose parents receive a social grant such as a child support grant on behalf of the learner."

Tucker said if school fees are 10percent of the parents' salary, then they are eligible to be exempted from paying fees.

If parents want to know whether their children's schools are in the no-fees category, they have to inquire at the school or the provincial education department.

Parents who cannot afford to pay fees at a fee-charging school, can apply to the School Governing Body for exemption from paying.

"The SGB has the power to decide the amount to be charged," Tucker said.

Parents can apply for exemption by filling in forms at the school and the SGB has up to 30 days to decide on the application.

If parents are unhappy with an SGB's decision, they could appeal against it with the education authorities.