Schools lift aid budgets as fees exceed inflation
More Model C parents expected to approach governing bodies for tuition exemptions
Former Model C schools are bracing themselves for a flood of applications for fee exemptions from cash-strapped parents after many governing bodies approved above-inflation fee increases for next year.
A snap survey by the Sunday Times this week found fee increases at both public and private schools were well above the inflation rate of 4.9%. Increases at state schools averaged 8.2% and hikes at private schools 7.8%.
Already, some schools are budgeting for more fee exemptions.
Among the biggest annual increases are tuition fees for pupils in grades 2 to 7 at Rivonia Primary in Johannesburg, a government school, with a 10% hike from R29,570 to R32,530. Grade 10 and 11 pupils at Marist Brothers Linmeyer, a private school in Johannesburg, will pay 9.9% more - from R80,690 to R88,700.
Parktown High School for Girls in Johannesburg, which awarded R5.8m in fee exemptions this year, has earmarked R5.9m for next year to assist 15% to 20% of the total pupil population.
Hoërskool Pietersburg in Limpopo is expecting to grant fee exemptions totalling R4.6m to about 260 pupils next year after granting R4.2m this year.
Ashton International College Ballito said that because the state had offered teachers an annual increase of 7%, it could not afford to offer anything less.
Economist Azar Jammine warned that above-inflation increases at high-end private schools were going to result in "more and more people no longer finding it affordable" and moving to former Model C schools.
The headmaster of Hoërskool Pietersburg, Willie Schoeman, said the provincial education department paid 68c a day for each of the school's 1,269 pupils this year.
"How ridiculous is that? We have not received a cent from the department for fee exemptions that were granted to pupils."
The school's fees for next year have been hiked by 9.3%, from R22,242 to R24,310.
Schoeman said he had to reduce next year's sports budget to keep the increase down. Parents of 93 pupils still owed R1.8m in fees for this year.
"The number of people applying for school fee exemptions will grow. We try and push battling parents to pay something, even if it's R200 a month."
Ashok Lachman, chair of the governing body's finance committee at Parktown Girls, said although the school was mindful of parents' financial hardship, "administering a quality education is not cheap".
The school will be losing three state-paid teachers next year, which "means the governing body will have to pay for more teachers".
The cash-strapped parent of a pupil at Rivonia Primary said next year's R2,960 fee increase was "quite steep". "It's going to be an uphill battle to pay next year's fees."
Parents at the school had to pay R6,500 per child as a re-registration fee for next year by last Wednesday.
"I had to borrow money from a bank. If you don't pay, your child is not accommodated," the parent said.
Jammine, a former member of the board of governors at a private school, said his efforts to "curb" a 9% to 9.5% fee increase were resisted by the board, which indicated that the increase was necessary for the school to achieve excellence.
"Private schools are becoming the ambit of the corporate elite. One is finding that some of the ordinary decent professionals are now really struggling to keep pace with some of the private school fees," he said.
Lebogang Montjane, executive director of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa, said schools were sensitive to the current economic climate and "the gap between inflation and school increases seems to be closing a bit".
Anthea Cereseto, national CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, said they advised schools when drawing up their budgets to cut out "the nice-to-haves".
She said because school fees were increasing, the number of people qualifying for exemptions would definitely increase.
Jaco Deacon, deputy CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, said schools should do detailed planning. "If governing bodies can't justify every single expense in the budget, they shouldn't raise school fees."