Education is important for any nation. If we want to develop our economy to overcome poverty, we have to improve the skills and capacity of our people. An education policy is necessary to ensure access for all despite a citizen's wealth, race, gender, culture, or disability. Without an admissions and school fees policy, equal access is not possible.
What is in this guide?
This guide provides government policy on school admissions and fees. It has the following sections:
- School admissions and fees:
- Legal and policy guidelines on school admission
- What to do if a child is refused access to a school for reasons of language
- What to do if a child is refused access to a school because parents cannot pay school fees
- How to prevent unfair discrimination against poor children
- Total or partial exemption from school fees.
Government policy on school admissions and school fees is guided by three basic principles:
- Equity : to make sure that government gives the same basis resources to all government schools
- Redress: to give more government resources to learners in historically disadvantaged communities so that they have more money for textbooks and stationery, and it is possible to build schools in areas where none exist and upgrade existing schools
- Access: to make sure no one is excluded from attending school on the basis of race or religion or because they cannot afford to pay school fees.
The South African Schools Act says that:
- For both state and private school, no one can be refused admission to a school on the basis of race or religion.
- All children between the ages of 5 and 15 have to go to school. For both state and private schools, children can be accepted in Grade R in the year they turn 5 and in Grade One in the year they turn 6.
- No one registering at a State school can be charged a registration fee or asked to pay fees up front.
- No child can be refused entry to a state school because his or her parents have not paid school fees in the past.
- Where possible children should be given access to a state school within 5 kilometres of their home. In some provinces government assists learners with transport when they live more than 5 kilometres from school.
The provincial department of education makes regulations guiding admissions.
Practical steps that can be taken if a school tells a learner that it is full:
- Ask the principal if the school had been officially declared full by the Education Department.
- Ask to see the letter which says the school is full.
- If there is no letter then the school must accept the child.
- If the school refuses permission then contact the district office.
- If the school does have a letter then the department must find a place for the child in the nearest school to where he or she lives.
Government policy is clear on giving children access to state schools. It also supports mother tongue instruction where this is feasible.
Some children have been refused access to certain former Model C schools on the basis that the school is an Afrikaans medium school and the child does not speak Afrikaans. In some communities the English medium school is full and there are only spaces in the Afrikaans medium school. Some communities have successfully solved this matter by entering into negotiations with the governing body of the Afrikaans medium school. As a result of these negotiations the school has become a dual medium school where students have the option to learn in either English or Afrikaans.
When faced with such a problem, findi out how many learners are without a school to attend in the community. Request a meeting with the Principal and the Governing Body and discuss the issue. The local District Office of the Education Department can also be approached to assist in these negotiations.
The law says that the paying of fees is a matter between the School Governing Body and the parent of the child and not a matter between a child, teachers or principals.
The law also says that no child can be refused admission to a school because his or her parents cannot afford to pay school fees. It is also illegal for schools to charge registration fees or other up front payments from parents when giving a child admission to a school. A child cannot be sent home from school or refused results of tests or exams if fees have not been paid.
If this problem arises, contact the principal and explain that the action is against the law. At the same time advise parents how to approach the School Governing Body to get part or total exemption from fees.
Monitor schools admission policies, especially at registration time. Make sure that poor children are not discriminated against and that the admissions policy is properly applied.
Where you encounter problems, report them to the district office of the education department. Advise parents to take the matter to SGBs and to make complaints to the department. You could also assist SGBs with developing proper policies. They can get assistance with this from the department.
The law says the following families can qualify for a total or partial exemption from school fees:
- Where the breadwinner's annual salary is less than ten times the amount of the school fee. So for example, if a parent is a domestic worker who earns R800 per month then she will earn R9 600 per year. If the school fees are R1000 per year, then ten times the school fees is R10 000, this is more than the domestic worker earns in a year. She is therefore entitled to an exemption or a reduction in fees.
- Where the combined income of the mother and father is less than 30 times the annual school fee. For example if the joint income of the mother and father is R1 500 per month and the annual school fee is R700 per year :
12 x 1500 = R 18 000 per year
30 x the school fees of R700 = R 21 000
Because their total income is less than 30 x the fees they will qualify for a partial reduction of fees.
To apply for a reduction in fees, the parent must do the following:
- Write a letter to the School Governing Body requesting to be exempted in part or totally from fees.
- Provide a pay slip or letter from the employer explaining how much the parent earns.
- If the parent is unemployed, or self employed, they should make an affidavit saying what they earn or how they support the child, for example, on a pension or a child care grant.
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