Pressure on single parents eases after court ruling

2018-01-31 06:00

A RECENT landmark decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) will see relief provided to thousands of single parents in public schools.

This is against the backdrop of the Western Cape High Court’s judgement that the South African Schools Act holds parents jointly liable for the payment of school fees, which was placing the burden on single parents who have separated or divorced from their partners.

In cases where these partners did not contribute, it became very difficult for single parents to afford the school fees.

Many parents across the country have been battling to secure either partial or full exemption from the payment of fees for a number of years, which is made difficult by the fact that they are assessed based on the joint income of both parents.

The reality is that many single parents are unaware of their former partner’s whereabouts and that said partner often does not contribute to the payment of school fees.

According to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), which applauded the court’s decision, the SCA’s recent ruling was “welcoming news to those that are in the same predicament of not affording school fees due to their separated or divorced partners not contributing. Women are in the majority in bearing the brunt of having difficulty in paying school fees due to their socioeconomic conditions.

“It is, therefore, critical that this declaratory order by the SCA, which confirms that Section 40 (1) of the South African Schools Act (Act 84 of 1996) provides for joint and several liabilities of parents. Fee exemption applications can be processed in terms of the Act and the regulations to enable single parents separated or divorced from their partners to have their applications assessed in relation to their own personal circumstances and not on combined income.”

The CGE called on the Department of Basic Education, provincial departments of Education, district officials and school principals to ensure that the SCA judgement is implemented.

“This judgement will affirm the rights of both male and female single parents in ensuring that they provide for the education of their children without having to seek assistance directly from their separated or divorced partners.

“It is critical that the CGE monitors the effective implementation of the judgement in ensuring that women, in particular, are less dehumanised by those that refuse to do right by them.

“The CGE will ensure, as mandated by the CGE Act, that the necessary steps are taken to ensure compliance with the law.”

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