‘Fees hike to hit indie schools’

2013-07-22 00:00

HIGHER accreditation fees for independent schools and a quality control system that will be difficult to implement has the sector in a stew.

A typical independent school could pay up to R75 000 to attain full accreditation from Umalusi, the council for quality assurance in general and further education and training.

Umalusi recently announced its new fees and accreditation process for private education institutions and private assessment bodies.

The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa), Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) and the National Alliance of Independent Schools Association (Naisa) said low-fee paying independent schools would be hit hard by this new accreditation process.

The bodies have welcomed the accreditation process, which took about eight years to get off the ground. However, they remain concerned that it would be difficult to carry out because Umalusi is understaffed and does not have the capacity to undertake adequate quality control. This process also comes with a hefty price tag.

Isasa’s director of policy and government relations, Sandile Ndaba, said accreditation is a common practice globally. However, the problem with Umalusi’s policy is that the organisation lacks capacity to do the work, considering the number of independent schools in the country. According to Umalusi, there are over 3 500 independent schools in SA.

Naisa chairperson Ebrahim Ansur said that the new system of accreditation is not workable.

He said this was evident in the schools that took part in the pilot project to implement the new system.

Over the years these schools have been submitting volumes of files and reports for accreditation.

“It is a long and difficult process”, costing them thousands of rands. Smaller schools are expected to pay about R40 000 overall, Ansur said.

He added that a school such as Edendale Muslim School, where parents pay R10 a month in school fees, would suffer.

On the positive side, Ansur said that under Umalusi’s monitoring plan, every aspect of a school must have a written policy and staff appraisal has improved.

ACE chief executive officer Graham Yoko, with 250 member schools, said the parents of pupils at schools affiliated to his organisation are taxpayers, but do not receive anything in return as far as education is concerned.

“Independent schools are now going to pay hidden taxes for accreditation because our schools don’t get assistance from the fiscus,” Yoko said.

He said government schools are automatically accredited, despite most of them not fulfilling the norms and standards, which he says it is not fair.

“Government schools don’t have windows, fences or teachers, but higher standards are placed on independent schools simply because they are independent.”

Yoko said most of their schools cater for disadvantaged communities and charge low fees. “So to make pupils pay an additional burden to operational costs could see the end to some schools.”

Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi said the new accreditation system became necessary because of changes to policies and criteria for the accreditation and monitoring of education institutions and assessment bodies.

The new regulations were introduced by the minister of Basic Education in October 2012.

Umalusi said the approved fees include quality promotion, accreditation and monitoring fees. “The fees were bench-marked against fees charged by some of the local associations and those of the New England Association for Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Boston, U.S.”

Rakometsi said the quality promotion, accreditation and monitoring fees are shared by Umalusi and the independent schools and private assessment bodies. “While private education institutions and private assessment bodies pay for the professional/expert judgment of the evaluation and moderation teams of evaluation experts, Umalusi pays for setting up and maintaining an accreditation and monitoring system.”

The fees are informed by the size of the institution, the number of qualifications or programmes offered, programme phases and the national quintile system, he said.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

• R1 832 for Umalusi to process applications;

• R1 110 for evaluating a school’s portfolio of evidence and report (per portfolio)

• R2 000 for consolidation of the desktop report;

• R37 000 for a site visit at a combined school (Grade R to 12);

• R11 500 for a foundation phase school (Grade R to 3) site visit, and more.

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