Private schooling for all: iLIVE
I refer to your August 31 editorial on the Northern Cape road protests that have led to the closure of 41 schools in the area.
You wrote: "The failings of government schools are giving space to big business to build private schools. But the losers in this will be children in poor communities whose parents will be in no position to send them to these schools."
This is a common perception but, in reality, the independent school sector has changed radically since the demise of apartheid.
The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa would like to clarify that the majority of independent schools are now not-for-profit, mid-fee and low-fee ones that serve disadvantaged communities, and, as such, the state grants them a subsidy.
Department of Basic Education statistics indicate that, in 2010, 73% of pupils enrolled in independent schools were black. This contradicts the popular perception that independent schools cater exclusively for the wealthy and elite .
The independent sector constitutes nearly 6% of all schools and educates close on 500000 pupils. The sector is growing rapidly. Between 2009 and 2011, 93700 more pupils enrolled in independent schools, largely due to an increasing demand from black communities.
Less than 5% of independent schools are for-profit and, while these schools can charge anything from R28000 a year upwards, Meridian schools charge more affordable tuition fees of about R12000 to R16000 a year.
There are many non-profit independent schools that charge fees even lower than this.
For instance, the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa's 700 member schools include only those whose quality is assured, and we have a member that charges fees of only R1900 a year. There are 125 members that charge less than R15000 a year and 265 schools that charge below R28000.
Of course, it is true that the poorest of the poor communities, of which sadly there are far too many in South Africa, cannot afford even low-fee independent schools. However, if the government increased subsidies to low-fee schools from the current maximum of 60% of the cost of a public school child, many more independent schools could meet the needs of poor black communities.
With the deepening crisis in public education, increasingly independent schools are shouldering the responsibility of providing schooling of an acceptable quality.