The Covid-19 lockdowns have caused havoc on South African schools. Many have been unable to re-open fully as pandemic protocols limit the number of children who can attend each day.
Schools have responded to the restrictions in various ways, with many moving to a hybrid model of online and in-person schooling on alternate days or weeks.
Some have found a way to teach half a class in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, while others have moved classes outdoors or into halls and corridors.
Teachers, and pupils, are being forced to find new ways to communicate, learn and adapt - and it seems that this will be our norm for many more months to come.
Nonetheless, Parent24 has received numerous requests from parents unhappy that their children are not attending school full time... yet fees have remained the same.
On the one hand, this is understandable.
Parents are now working, many from home, while also assisting their children with remote schooling.
The lines between work, school and home are completely obscured, yet the pressures, expectations and responsibilities remain the same. And so do the financial obligations.
On the other hand, schools still have bills to pay, and are still providing a service with an end goal: that your child passes the grade and moves on at the end of the year.
We spoke to experts who answered the following reader questions:
- "Why do we as parents have to pay the full amount of school fees for January 2021? I paid nearly R2000 for my Grade 1 son and no education was provided. My understanding is, you pay for service delivery."
According to the South African Schools Act (SASA) all school governing bodies (SGBs) of public schools must supplement government funding, by charging school fees and doing other reasonable forms of fund-raising. Public school fees are an annual charge, aimed at improving the quality of education of the learners in the school.
Sue Larkan, a parents' rights activist and founder of Tabansi, an organisation that helps parents navigate school rules, explains that fees are charged annually, but parents are offered the option to pay them over the year, monthly.
"The parent has the opportunity to pay fees in installments over 10 or 11 months, to be paid in full by the end of November. So you would start paying from January to November," she says.
Therefore, not paying for January due to a service not delivered in that month doesn't strictly apply.
Part time school
- "Why do we have to pay the full amount of school fees every month, when my child only attends school 3 days a week. So, for the month it would be more or less 12 days."
Larkan explains that although your child is only attending school two or three days a week, in line with what the Disaster Management regulations allow for that school, the learner is still receiving his/her lessons and will write the assessments and exams necessary to pass the grade.
"We are in a state of disaster where the responsibility is for the parent to make sure the child is doing the work given for the other two or three days of the week that they are at home," she says.
The educators are still working in the background to plan and set your child's lessons as if they are at school, she adds.
- "The law needs to protect us as parents. Times have changed with Covid-19, we are not earning more money, our children are receiving less education then usual, we should occupy or pay someone to take care of our children during their off days, but the school fees are not reduced."
Larkan explains that the SASA does in fact protect the parent, in these circumstances, and in "normal" situations, if a parent finds themselves under financial strain.
"The parent must apply for a reduction or exemption, whichever they may qualify for. Applications are available all year round at schools," she says.
Parents who cannot afford to pay school fees must apply to the SGB for conditional, partial or full exemption from paying school fees.
Application forms can be obtained from the SGB through the principal of a school. Public schools must inform parents of the criteria and procedures and assist them in applying for exemption from paying school fees.
Larkan urges parents to apply and not ignore their school account, so the school can apply to the government for compensation if your applications are submitted.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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