According to the South African Constitution, school education is a basic right. This is why our law provides for certain categories of persons who are exempted from paying school fees.
It is illegal to request school fees from a learner:
- Who is an orphan in an orphanage;
- Who is an orphan in a household headed by a child;
- Who is being cared for by a foster parent;
- Who has been placed in a youth care centre or a place of safety;
- Who has been placed in the care of a family member; or
- Whose parent receives a social grant (e.g. a child care grant) on behalf of the relevant learner.
The parent/guardian must however apply for exemption. Parents/guardians are legally entitled to not pay school fees if their earnings are insufficient. Such parents have to apply for exemption.
How to apply for exemption:
Parent/guardians who cannot afford to pay school fees, must apply in writing to the school’s management board for exemption from school fees.
- If the school fees amount to 10% of your annual income, you need not pay school fees.
- If the school fees amount to 8% of your annual income, each learner’s school fees will be decreased by at least 88%.
- If the school fees amount to 6% of your annual income, each learner’s school fees will be decreased by at least 67%.
- If the school fees amount to 4% of your annual income, the first learner’s school fees will be decreased by 25% and those of the other learners (to a maximum of four learners) by at least 40%.
- If the school fees amount to 3.5% of your annual income, each learner’s school fees will be decreased by at least 7%.
The parent/guardian can ask the school for an application form. If the school fails to provide the parent/guardian with a copy of the policy document, the parent/guardian can insist on receiving a copy thereof.
Can a learner be refused entry to a school due to school fees not having been paid?
No. The act clearly states that no learner may be treated differently or unfairly because his/her parent/guardian did not pay school fees. If a parent/guardian therefore cannot afford to pay school fees, or even merely forgot to pay the school fees, the school may not punish the learner by sending him/her home, refusing him/her access to classes or other school amenities, or withholding his/her report. A school that punishes a learner for the omission or inability of a parent/guardian to pay school fees, transgresses the law.