Public school fees ‘shocking’

2012-10-27 16:03

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is “shocked” and “angry” at how much it will cost to attend some government schools next year – but there is nothing she can do about it.

Parent bodies of top state schools across the country have been meeting this month to decide on fee increases, and some have hiked them to more than R30 000 a year.

This week, Motshekga accused school governing bodies of “privatising public education” and making it “unaffordable for most parents”.

According to a snap survey conducted by City Press, the most expensive school was Durban’s Westville High School, which will cost R31 111 next year.

However, others may still charge more.

Cape Town’s Marist Brothers’ Junior Primary School, a fee-paying government school, which cost R30 834 for Grade 7 pupils this year, has yet to decide on its fees for next year.

Other schools which are still to decide on their increases were Joburg’s Parktown Boys’ High School, which cost R28 850 this year; and Port Elizabeth’s Grey High School, which cost R28 320.

Motshekga railed against “galloping” school fees, which “somehow needed to be contained”.

She said: “It’s a big problem and even (former education) minister Naledi Pandor tried to address it. But unfortunately there is nothing we can do as, by law, school governing bodies and parents are responsible for approving budgets.

“It’s a major concern. It means if you have three children in one such school, you could pay up to R100 000 per annum, which is unaffordable for most parents.

“It is actually privatising public education and we are quite concerned.”

Public schools are classified into fee-paying schools, under which most former Model C schools fall; and non fee-paying schools, which include most peri-urban, township and rural schools.

But Paul Colditz, the CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas), said many schools had no choice but to raise their fees because of hikes in electricity tariffs and other municipal services.

They also had to increase the salaries of the additional teachers they employ to keep class sizes down.

Colditz said fee-paying schools were divided into three categories.

The first charge between R5 000 and R12 000 a year and have few sports facilities, extramural activities or additional subjects.

The second charge up to R20 000 and offer above-average sporting facilities, extramural activities and additional subjects.

The highest category of schools, he said, cost up to R31 000 a year and were attended by wealthy children who enjoy the best sports facilities, music classes, teachers for extra subjects and a wide array of extramural activities.

“In 2008, the average cost per pupil per year was R4 000 for primary schools and R6 000 for high schools,” Colditz said.

He predicted a survey by Fedsas next year will show that the average cost for primary schools is between R6 000 and R7 000, and between R8 000 and R12 000 for high schools. Colditz said there were “dramatic changes” since their last survey.

The big culprit, he said, is rising municipal accounts, “not even to mention electricity”.

Economist Mike Schüssler, said electricity prices rose by 142% in the last four years and it is placing more and more consumers, among which are schools, into debt.

“People can simply not afford electricity any more,” said Schüssler.

In Limpopo and Eastern Cape, he said, there are schools with 19 vacant posts which are filled by temporary teachers who have to be paid.

“The school will either go down or the governing body will step in and provide support staff.

“All schools spend 50% of their budget on teachers, additional teachers and support staff,” he said.

But not everyone believes the fees are justified.

Matakanye Matakanye, the secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, said: “We abhor these types of fees. It’s a rip-off. These schools are created by the middle class and the rich to exclude the poor.

“They are privatising these schools and it’s a struggle that we have to take on.”

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