Cape schools compensated for fees dearth

2018-11-27 14:30

Over one third of learners at fee-paying schools, which are currently being compensated by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), are in the Cape Town Metro central and southern districts.

These two districts cover the southern suburbs, City Bowl and Atlantic Seaboard.

In a statement by the WCED, the department says it compensates 97% of fee-paying schools across the province, for over 81 000 learners whose parents struggle to pay fees.

There are currently 575 public ordinary fee-paying schools in the Western Cape. This year the WCED has paid out fee compensation to 558 of these schools.

The majority of schools compensated are based in the Cape Town Metro, confirms spokesperson to MEC Debbie Schäfer, Jessica Shelver.

“The total schools in the Metro applying for compensation is 398 (out of the 558 that applied for compensation) – for 59 055 learners (out of 81 303 learners that applied for compensation),” Shelver says.

The Metro Central education district had 121 schools (21%) applying for compensation for 12 810 learners and Metro South education district had 107 schools (19%) applying for compensation for 16 975 learners, Shelver explains.

“Many of our schools in the Western Cape are classified as Quintile 4 and 5 schools (fee paying), which are supposed to be wealthy, but the reality is that they are attended by a large number of poorer learners. In some instances, these schools should actually be classified as Quintile 1 to 3 schools (no-fee schools). The National Quintile System and concomitant funding does not allow this, which shows the flaw in this system, which may have had merit when it was first introduced but has not been reassessed since and is now hopelessly inadequate,” Schäfer says in a statement.

Provincial education departments have to allocate schools to quintiles according to national poverty distribution tables published in the Government Gazette for National Norms and Standards for School Funding. This allocation is done according to percentages contained in the tables for each province. These percentages determine the number of schools that departments may allocate to each quintile, Shelver explains.

The Department of Basic Education bases the poverty scores used to compile the tables on the relative poverty of communities determined by census data.

In terms of the South African Schools Act, in 2017, 60% of all learners in the country should be in quintiles 1 to 3.

“The 2017 National Poverty Distribution Table allowed for 40.3% of Western Cape learners to be allocated to no-fee schools,” Shelver adds.

Schools get a funding allocation according to their quintile status. This, for Quintile 1 to 3, is R1316 per learner. Quintile 4 schools receive R660 per learner and Quintile 5 R228 per learner. This means Quintile 4 and 5 schools need to rely on school fees to make up for the additional funding. School fees are determined by the school governing body.

Shelver adds: “Obviously, time has evolved and socio-economic situations have changed, thus resulting in many schools being unfairly classified as Quintile 4 and 5, yet in reality they serve poor communities. A good example of this is many of our city schools which are commuter schools – which means that learners commute from across Cape Town to attend these schools. While these schools are in ‘wealthier’ areas, the learners that attend are not necessarily from the same area and may travel from poorer areas.”

Parents qualify for exemption if the school fees are more than 10% of the parents’ combined annual salary. Compensation for school fee exemptions is made available retrospectively for the previous school year.

Schäfer says: “We have supported initiatives for a system that compensates schools for school fee exemptions, as we recognise the important role that fee exemptions play in granting access to poorer learners.

“To mitigate the effects of the quintile system, the WCED has this year made an increased amount of over R55m available to assist Quintile 4 and 5 schools that are struggling to collect school fees from parents. This is an increase of more than R5m compared to last year.”

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