Wealthy South Africans spend big to get their kids the best education

30 October 2014 - 15:10 By Matthew Savides, Taschica Pillay, Reitumetse Pitso and Jerome Cornelius
HEAD START: An education at St John's College in Johannesburg may lead to future riches
HEAD START: An education at St John's College in Johannesburg may lead to future riches

Parents are going to have to dig deep to keep their children at South Africa's top private schools next year, with basic fees for boarders soaring to as much as R200000 a year.

And that is without the additional cost of books, sports kits, tours and excursions.

This means families will need to fork out more than R1-million over the five years of high school to give their young princes and princesses the best education money can buy.

But parents and old boys argue that private schools are of a higher standard than state schools and offer the chance to plug into a useful network of future movers and shakers.

The country's most expensive school is Hilton College near Pietermaritzburg, where a pupil starting Grade 8 next year can expect to cost his parents more than R1.3-million in boarding and tuition fees alone, by the time he matriculates. On top of this, parents will have to pay an "acceptance fee" of R52250.

Other leading boys' schools include:

St Andrew's College in Grahamstown, which cost R182700 this year, with an acceptance fee of R60 900;

St Alban's College in Pretoria, where next year's fees will set parents back R181000 and the entry fee is R55000;

Bishops in Cape Town, where the fees are R168000; and

St John's College in Johannesburg, which costs R165000.

The most expensive girls' schools are St Mary's Diocesan School in Pretoria (R156000), Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown (R154000), and St Mary's School in Johannesburg (R152000).

Annual tuition and boarding fees at these three schools will increase to more than R160000 next year. These fees are for boarding and tuition; day students will pay less.

Schools contacted by the Sunday Times said their fees generally increased by between 7% and 10% per year, but could rise by as much as 13% in some cases.

On average, fees are set to increase by about 8% next year.

At some schools, uniforms alone cost more than the fees charged at many state schools.

At the R147400-a-year Kings-wood College in Grahamstown, a Grade 8 boarder can expect to pay as much as R12000 for clothing.

"We recommend about R12000 for complete kitting out of all new uniform items for a boarder, but in reality, it is less than this if good quality second-hand items are sourced at the school shop," said a school spokeswoman.

Sports kits and equipment can cost as much as R6000.

Not everyone believes the expense of private schools is justified.

"There is still bullying and there are problems at these schools," said education analyst Graeme Bloch.

"Yes, they do get about 98% matric pass rates, which is very good, but there are good former Model C schools that get the same.

"If you don't have a choice of a good former Model C school, then [the money] is worth it. But otherwise, I'm just not sure it is," said Bloch.