Private schools struggle as parents fail to pay fees
Independent schools are struggling for survival due to difficult economic times as parents default on the payment of school fees which has resulted in some of them shutting down while others stand on the brink.
The National Alliance of Independent Schools (Naisa) said it was concerned that there were only 20% of parents who were currently paying school fees.
As a result, the association has now appealed for a special financial relief for independent schools from the government.
Naisa represents more than 1,400 independent schools in SA and has nine associations of independent schools affiliated to it.
Naisa chairperson Mandla Mthembu said the average percentage school fee payment by parents in April stood at an estimated 21% while in June it was around 18%.
“This alone means that in a school with 100 parents who are supposed to be paying school fees, only 18 are paying. Unfortunately you cannot run a school, pay teachers and pay for all your overheads with only 18 parents paying. Also the collection of school fees and sending out lawyers’ letters of demand is costly to the school,” he said.
Mthembu said they were also aware of the schools that have shut their doors in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
“In Gauteng, we have Bishop Bavin school in Bedfordview, Marne Ebersohn Academy in Limpopo and Pomeroy Christian School in Tugela Ferry in KZN, all have closed their doors. Many teachers at the independent schools have had to face the harsh realities of retrenchments or salary cuts of up to 50%. The longer and deeper the financial squeeze, the harder it will be for schools to continue to operate efficiently,” Mthembu said.
He said this is why they were appealing to the government for relief funds that independent schools can apply for, so that they can continue doing their work.
“If the government can avail R1.5bn to the taxi industry, why can they not do the same to save the children's education? Parents have been retrenched and are unable to pay school fees, some parents have chosen the online platform whereas others have joined the home schooling projects,” Mthembu said.
Mthembu said some parents were seeking financial relief with regards to school fees which was a tricky situation.
“Schools have been able to deliver online learning and teacher engagement through digital platforms such as Zoom, Google or Teams and have been able to maintain a relatively stable fee collection status. However, many parents simply refuse to pay school fees as there are many of these parents adversely impacted by Covid-19 and are themselves under financial strain,” Mthembu said.