The pros and cons of boarding schools in South Africa

 ·28 May 2023

Although boarding schools may help a child’s development, they are not for every family.

Many families see boarding school as a family tradition, but new families are looking to send their children to boarding school due to the requirements of modern life, such as travel commitments.

However, many parents are concerned about whether or not their children will be happy if they go to a boarding school.

Somerset College provided a list of reasons why boarding could be a positive for a child., flagging four key benefits.

  • Living in close proximity to others leads to collaboration and social skills.
  • Boarding encourages maturity, with students becoming more independent and time-efficient. The further responsibility for students also prepares them for their tertiary studies.
  • The diversity of the boarding experience exposes students to differing world views.
  • In some cases, boarding can improve relationships between teens and their families.

Despite the positives of boarding schools, many parents wonder if boarding school will suit their children.

“Different people have different needs, and not all students naturally enjoy boarding”, said Cindi van der Berg from Somerset College.

Some teens enjoy living on a school campus, while others prefer the immediate family environment, van der Berg said.

“Traits in students that tend to make the adaptation to boarding easier include high levels of independence, a strong motivation to develop social skills, a drive to participate in a variety of extramurals, and the willingness to cohabit with a variety of different people,” she said.

Hilton Toro from Somerset said that age plays a key role in the suitability to board.

“At College we only provide the option to board from Grade 8 and above. While there are always exceptions, students younger than Grade 8 often crave more frequent time with their family of origin,” he said.

“A boarding environment can provide a valuable sense of belonging and an additional support structure to teens,” Somerset’s Tasmyn Jewell added.

“It is important to note, however, that with an increase in neurodiversity and extremely different abilities to integrate the sensory environment, some students find boarding overstimulating – especially at first.”

Cindi added that smaller hostels or boarding hoses are generally preferred, with a ratio of at least one teacher to fifteen students.

Tasmyn said that personal contacts are harder to maintain in larger institutions, with schools that provide boarding as an option having the advantage, as “day” students give the perks of large numbers while boarding houses remain relatively small and intimate.

Another concern amongst parents regards initiation processes.

“One should never blur the boundaries between the provision of healthy orientation and scaffolding, and outdated and highly destructive initiation practices, hazing and bullying,” Tasmyn said.

“There should also be water-tight protocols in place, which are tirelessly implemented,” Hilton added.


Although boarding schools may have several benefits for students, they come with a large price tag.

In 2023, Hilton College is the most expensive boarding school in South Africa, with fees totalling R369,920.

This is significantly pricier than the most expensive day school in South Africa, Kearsney College, whose yearly fees total R224,620.

Although Somerset College is the 17th most expensive boarding school in South Africa, its yearly fees of R265,600 are R40,000 higher than Kearsney’s.

Following a fee hike in 2023, nine boarding schools in South Africa cost over R300,000 per year for boarding and tuition:

School Location 2022 2023 Change
Hilton Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal R343 155 R369 920 7.8%
MichaelHouse Balgowan, KwaZulu-Natal R328 000 R347 680 6.0%
St Andrew’s College Makhanda, Eastern Cape R320 064 R340 869 6.5%
Roedean School for Girls Johannesburg, Gauteng R310 994 R338 428 8.8%
St John’s College Johannesburg, Gauteng R304 995 R331 091 8.6%
Kearsney College Botha’s Hill, KwaZulu-Natal R303 710 R326 480 7.5%
St Mary’s Johannesburg, Gauteng R293 050 R313 990 7.2%
Bishops College Cape Town, Western Cape R289 700 R311 960 7.7%
St Alban’s College Pretoria, Gauteng R287 850 R307 350 6.8%
Diocesan School for Girls Makhanda, Eastern Cape R276 930 R299 100 8.0%
St Andrew’s School for Girls, Senderwood Johannesburg, Gauteng R287 850 R299 000 3.9%
Kingswood College Makhanda, Eastern Cape R276 250 R292 710 6.0%
St Stithians Johannesburg, Gauteng R277 830 R280 065 0.8%
St Anne’s Diocesan College Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal R252 420 R272 112 7.8%
St David’s Marist Inanda Johannesburg, Gauteng R259 100 R269 910 4.2%
Crawford College North Coast Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal R248 020 R269 400 8.6%
Somerset College Stellenbosch, Western Cape R248 300 R265 600 7.0%
Bridge House Franschhoek, Western Cape R248 700 R264 600 6.4%
Epworth High School for Girls Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal R224 727 R261 757 16.5%
St Benedict’s College Johannesburg, Gauteng R240 320 R260 670 8.5%
Durban Girls’ College Durban, KwaZulu-Natal R237 000 R255 700 7.9%
Herschel Girls School Cape Town, Western Cape R237 700 R252 410 6.2%
Treverton College Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal R234 960 R249 056 6.0%
Uplands College White River, Mpumalanga R232 000 R247 500 6.7%
St Charles College Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal R230 100 R243 900 6.0%
St Martin’s College Johannesburg, Gauteng R249 210 R235 000 -5.7%
Woodridge College Thornhill, Eastern Cape R222 793 R229 389 3.0%

Read: Top-performing private schools in South Africa – and how much they cost to attend

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