School fee warning for South Africa

 ·3 May 2023

Many parents across the country are struggling to pay for school fees, and hikes in prices are showing no sign of slowing, says Paul Esterhuizen, CEO of School-Days.

According to the CEO, the cost of education at both government and private schools in the country is rising, with fee hikes in 2023 ranging between 4% and 6%.

He added that education inflation is expected to persist and surpass the Consumer Price Index (CPI) by 3% – approximately 10% in March 2023 – resulting in rising expenses for parents already struggling with the cost of living.

On top of those, education costs are projected to surpass salary inflation, making it even more difficult for parents to afford education for their children, said Esterhuizen.

Financial services firm TPN Credit Bureau reported that by the end of 2022, more than 40% of school fee accounts were in arrears.

TPN further reported that 25% of parents did not make any sort of payment at all towards outstanding school fees.

School fees are, however, not the only expense for parents – necessities like uniforms, books, sports equipment and school trips all add to the monthly bill.

Households across the country are already cash-strapped and are struggling to deal with ever-increasing cost of living due to inflation.

While the South African Reserve Bank been hiking interest rates to curb rampant inflation, its efforts have so far fallen a bit flat, with inflation sticking outside the target range of 3%-6%, largely driven up by higher food prices.

Meanwhile, the resultant impact of the rate hikes has been a spike in the cost of debt, with many households now struggling to make payments on their bonds and other loans.

With rising school costs piling on to pressures, Esterhuizen warned that the failure to pay school fees also has implications for a person’s credit score, which adds even more to the cost of borrowing.

Worse still, it also has the potential to impact their child’s education.

“Ashleigh Laurent, legal counsel at TPN, revealed that private school parents who are in default are sent a letter of demand and then given 20 business days to settle the outstanding balance,” he said.

The school can then decide to either exclude a learner if a parent still fails to pay after an extensive notice period passes.

For non-paying parents with children at government schools, they are provided with a little more protection, said Esterhuizen.

Public schools are required to assess whether parents are eligible for full, partial, or conditional exemption from fees before taking action against non-payment.

Additionally, public schools must inform parents in writing if they have not applied for an exemption. If payment is not received, a letter of demand may be sent to parents with a three-month payment deadline from the date of receipt of the letter.

Read: New laws for schools in South Africa back in the hot seat

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