School fees: parents to feel squeeze

2013-12-04 00:00

PARENTS must not be blinded by things that do not matter to their children, and end up paying for things they do not need.

This advice from Governing Body Foundation CEO Tim Gordon, follows the increases decided on by private and former Model C schools for next year.

To keep a competitive edge, schools have to consistently offer extensive lists of sporting and extramural activities, adding to the cost of education.

Not only can this push up costs, but it might not play to the pupils’ interests or strengths, he said.

Huge chunks of school fees paid at top private and former Model C schools in the province go towards teachers’ salaries, schools told The Witness.

They explained their increases by pointing to high inflation, including constant fuel price increases.

Durban Girls’ High School has set next year’s fees at R19 800 –– an increase of eight percent from 2013, said spokesperson Marna Viljoen.

She said municipal charges are a heavy burden on parents. For schools, inflationary increases in services such as cleaning, security and the cost of transport for their busy co-curricular programmes mount up.

However, Viljoen said their pupils get value for money, citing their matric results as proof. “The payment of fees ensures the continued employment of additional well-qualified staff, which keeps class sizes reasonable to around 30 pupils,” Viljoen said.

Westville Boys’ High said the fees will increase from R31 300 to R33 850 per annum (an 8,8% increase) of which 65% is spent on salaries and wages.

The school advertises about 17 sporting codes, gym and an aquatics centre.

A school in Pietermaritzburg that has not had its meeting with the school governing body to discuss the increase said it was expecting an eight percent increase.

The school said maintaining an old building was also costly, and the utilities bill is close to R1 million annually.

The parents of a Grade 4 pupil attending St John’s Diocesan School for Girls will pay R56 000 next year, an increase of R5 950. A Grade 12 boarder at the same girls’ school will pay R128 940.

St John’s DSG head of marketing Robyn Kirkby said: “The work ethic that prevails is irreplaceable”.

Hilton College — with 2013 fees of R198 960 — is also expecting an increase.

The fees cover tuition, board, games, ordinary medical attention, and the use of the sanatorium, library, laundry and basic entertainment.

Gordon said the increases are justifiable, as schools pay a lot for salaries, maintenance and renovation of buildings, and the “big drivers” of rising costs include water and electricity bills.

In some areas municipalities treat schools as big businesses and charge them higher rates. Schools also need to buy textbooks for grades that are going to learn the new syllabus, he said.

Governing Body Foundation CEO Tim Gordon’s TIPS for parents to avoid being overburdened:

• According to legislation, parents can apply for fee reduction or redemption.

• Make sure monthly payments are up to date to avoid paying three months’ school fees on one month’s salary when you’ve missed your payments.

• Schools can arrange for stores to reduce textbook and uniform prices.

• Organise a lift club.

• Parents should look at their options carefully, especially in terms of distance travelled. Gordon said there are children travelling 60 km to a school when there is a better performing school around the corner.

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