School fee exemptions made easier for single parents

Single mom
Single mom

Being a single parent is no easy job. Sometimes keeping your head above the water can be a real challenge, especially when you're not receiving financial assistance from anyone.

Naturally, you want the best for your child but "the best" often means forking out a hefty amount of money. A good education, for example, is one of those things that could end up breaking the bank, but you know it's worth the investment.

Thankfully, a new court ruling regarding school fees and exemption means single parents' eligibility for exemption is now assessed solely on their own income, as opposed to a combined income. This makes it easier for children to receive an education and helps with any potential messy family issues.

As a single parent, how do you feel about this ruling? Have you experienced difficulties paying for school fees or applying for exemption? Let us know by emailing us at and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

Essentially, fee exemption is implemented to help learners who are not in the best financial situation receive the education they deserve too.

According to the Western Cape Education Department, "School governing bodies, inclusive of principals, must always be guided by the consideration that the purpose of the school fees exemption policy is to protect the right to education of all learners whose parents find it hard to finance the education of their child/children."

The constant stress of having a former partner or your child's other parent not playing a financial part in their lives can be a burden, and hopefully this ruling will alleviate some of the stress. 

When applying for fee exemption, both parents' income need to be declared, and the percentage of discount is calculated based on the total income. But this can be extremely tricky for separated parents, especially when only one parent is financially involved, or the other one refuses to show proof of income. You feel like you have to "prove how poor you are", which is humiliating.  

According to Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN, a registered credit bureau that specialises in assisting schools in collecting their outstanding fees, "Until late last year the legal position was that divorced parents were always jointly and severally liable for public school fees." This meant that both parents needed to be involved as a unit, which you can imagine, is not always that simple. 

"The Supreme Court of Appeal has now ruled that single parents may have their application for exemption of school fees assessed on their own financial means and not on combined income," says Michelle.

    The effect of this is that a school can claim a portion of the fees from each parent and that both parents cannot separately be held liable for the full amount where an exemption has been applied for.

    Dickens adds that “a single parent can now receive conditional exemption from their portion of school fees regardless of the other parent’s financial means or willingness to disclose their financial situation.” This is more fair seeing that both parents may not be in the same financial bracket.

    It's not always the easiest process to verify that parents actually qualify for an exemption, but there is a way to make it easier. "Schools can perform an enquiry through the credit bureau that includes employment verification to check the information supplied by a parent is accurate and current," explains Michelle. 

    “We see schools struggling with this, unaware of the information that is readily available to them on parents as consumers. While it is always necessary to get permission to perform a credit check, a parent applying for an exemption from school fees is usually happy to oblige. Schools are in a position to make use of credit checks, letters of demand and blacklisting, just as any business is.”

    Schools should then be able to help implement this new ruling and lift some of the financial burden from single parents across the country. 

    For more information, see The Supreme Court of Appeal Judgment.

    As a single parent, how do you feel about this ruling? Let us know by emailing us at and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

    Read more: 

    Sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive Parent24 stories directly to your inbox.

    We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
    In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
    Subscribe to News24
    Rand - Dollar
    Rand - Pound
    Rand - Euro
    Rand - Aus dollar
    Rand - Yen
    Brent Crude
    Top 40
    All Share
    Resource 10
    Industrial 25
    Financial 15
    All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
    Editorial feedback and complaints

    Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.