PSG-owned Curro sees a 20% fall in school collections

  • Fee collections fall by 20% between March and April 2020.
  • The group expects new learner enrolments to grow as other private schools encounter operational and funding challenges.
  • However, Curro's pre-school enrolments have dropped by 18%

School fee collections fell by 20% between March and April this year for one of South Africa's largest private schooling groups, Curro Holdings. Corporates have either cut wages in the wake of the country-wide lockdown and cut jobs with the country expected to lose more than a million jobs by the end of the year.

Curro provided Covid-19 specific financial relief in the form of reduced fees and other financial support initiatives to an estimated value of R70 million but it expects no further specific financial relief, the company, majority owned by the Mouton family's PSG Group, said in a trading update on Wednesday.

"Taking all this into account bad debt provisioning and financial assistance will increase, but the extent thereof is still uncertain," Andries Greyling, CEO of the Cape Town-based company, said.

But the company started seeing a slight improvement in the payment of school fees in May and June 2020. Before Covid-19 struck in the country, Curro said its fees collections were 23% higher in the first quarter of this year compared to the first three months of 2019, an indication that the group was turning its situation around after finding itself in a position with elevated bad debts as parents struggled to pay fees last year. 

Almost a fifth of private schooling group, Curro's pre-school learners have left their schools since the country went into lockdown in the middle of March, while primary and high school learner numbers have largely remain unchanged.

The pre-schools segment's remote learning was understandably more complex which drove the decline in enrolment numbers by 18% to 2 087 learners.

Curro has 175 schools in southern Africa and said even though some parents struggled to pay fees it managed recorded 513 new learner enrolments in June alone.

"Further growth in new enrolments is expected, as other industry players are subject to greater operational and funding challenges," Greyling said.

Curro's schools began their phased re-opening on 1 June 2020 and the group said more than 75% of learners in grades that offer face-to-face learning now have returned to the classroom. Some positive Covid-19 cases have been identified in some schools but Curro said it has put extensive safety protocols in place and "no contamination has occurred".

Compiled by Londiwe Buthelezi

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