Every year, thousands of parents at fee paying public schools who struggle to pay school fees apply for fee exemptions.
Parents qualify for exemption if the school fees are more than 10% of the parents’ combined annual salary, or can apply for partial exemption if the fees represent between 2% and 10% of their combined annual salary depending on the number of children they have at a fee-paying, public school.
While there have always been parents in our schools who qualify for fee exemption, we cannot ignore the fact that we are living in tough economic times and in this kind of climate, many more parents simply cannot afford to pay their school fees, thus affecting school income materially.
The Western Cape Government has consistently supported initiatives for a system that compensates schools for exempted school fees as we recognize the important role that fee exemptions play in extending school access.
In 2011, for the first time, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) paid out more than R 20 million in compensation for Fee Exemptions in 2010 to our fee paying public schools in Quintiles 4 and 5.
This assisted poorer schools in particular struggling with the burden of learners with fee exemptions to apply for funding so that they can meet their financial challenges.
This year schools and district officials were required to sign off their schools’ inputs by the end of August 2012 using an electronic system created for this purpose. The WCED is the only Provincial Education Department to have developed an electronic system for schools to submit the required information. This has allowed the Department to process the claims more efficiently giving the Head of Department ample time to inform schools of whether they qualify for compensation.
A total of 650 schools applied for fee compensation this year and last week an amount of R30 147 988 was deposited into school accounts which will help assist schools that have granted fee exemptions. This is the highest in the country.
We are delighted that we can assist these schools with this kind of compensation. It is the state that determines the basis for fee exemptions, and it is questionable to expect other parents to subsidise those that qualify for exemptions without some assistance from the state.
It is also unrealistic to expect schools to fund themselves at a significant level if there is no compensation for legally determined fee exemptions.
Therefore, this fund will benefit schools that are struggling with the cost of fee exemptions.