In South Africa, many parents are facing financial challenges due to the country’s cost-of-living crisis, which includes rising food and fuel prices, aggressive interest rates, and increasing debt.
As a result, some parents are struggling to pay their children’s monthly school fees. However, it is important to note that the law prohibits school management from denying children access to education, school reports, or transfer certificates due to outstanding fees.
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To address this issue, the government has implemented regulations that allow certain pupils to be exempted from school fees. According to these regulations, the following categories of students qualify for automatic exemption from school fees:
1. Orphans in orphanages
2. Children in foster care
3. Children placed in the care of a family member (“kinship caregiver”)
4. Children who head a household or are part of a child-headed household
5. Children whose parents receive a social grant on their behalf, such as a child support grant
However, if the school fees amount to 2% or less of a parent’s total income, they do not qualify for any exemption unless they have five or more children at a “fee-charging” school.
It is important to note that if a parent’s financial position changes, such as being retrenched and unable to continue paying the compulsory school fees, they can apply to the School Governing Body (SGB) to have the fees waived until they are employed again.
When applying for an exemption from school fees, a certain formula is used to determine the proportion (or percentage) of the family income that would be spent on school fees.
If the school fees amount to 10% of the parent or caregiver’s total income, they will be entitled to a full exemption and will not have to pay school fees. If the school fees amount to between 3.5% and 10% of the total income, a parent will qualify for a partial exemption.
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It is important to note that schools cannot ask parents to sign an Acknowledgement of Debt as an alternative to defaulting on payment in the future.
The exemption formula and the Table for Calculation Exemptions published on the Legal Fundi website can help parents determine how much they will have to pay if granted a partial exemption.
The application process for an exemption starts with the School Governing Body (SGB). Parents can obtain application forms from the SGB through the school principal. If there is no application form available, parents can write a letter to the chairperson of the SGB requesting partial or total exemption from fees.
The SGB has 30 days to consider and decide on the application, taking into account the financial position of the applicant, including their total gross annual income, necessary annual expenses, and assets and liabilities. The number of dependents and the applicant’s standard of living are also considered.
After assessing the exemption request, the SGB must inform the parent or caregiver of the outcome in writing within seven days. If the parent is not satisfied with the decision, they have the right to appeal.
Public schools are responsible for assisting parents in lodging appeals, and parents have 30 days to appeal in writing to the head of the Department of Basic Education in their province. The Head of Department is required to inform the parent of the decision within seven weeks of the appeal being made.
In conclusion, South African parents facing financial difficulties can apply for full or partial exemption from school fees. It is important to follow the application process, starting with the School Governing Body, and provide all necessary financial information.
By understanding their rights and the regulations in place, parents can ensure their children’s access to education is not compromised due to financial constraints.
Please note: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.
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