The Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas) has launched an investigation into the increase in public school fees. It believes that within a few years, it’ll cost the same to send your child to a former Model C school as it will to send them to a posh private institution. Fedsas CEO Paul Colditz says the gap is closing fast and the federation’s “massive” survey is working to determine how schools are funded, how they set their fees and use their money, and whether government funding is sufficient.
The survey would be ready for publication before the end of the year, Colditz said, making it a useful guide for parents trying to choose the right school for their pockets.
Some of the country’s most prominent and prestigious former Model C schools charge fees that are only a few thousand rands less than their private school counterparts. In Durban, the private Inanda Seminary School charged R41 000 a child this year, including tuition and boarding.
Also in Durban, the former Model C Westville Boys’ High School is set to charge R36 000, including boarding and tuition, next year, an administrator who asked not to be named told City Press.
According to the school’s website, Inanda’s fees exclude the following: about R400 for stationery, a textbook levy of R300, school trips at about R250, uniform (R1 000), sport uniform (R415) and bedding (R415).
Some former Model C schools are already on par with – or way ahead of – private schools. Pretoria Boys’ High charged R33 000 for tuition alone this year. Boarders then had to pay an extra R44 150 each.
Colditz said the biggest expense for most former Model C schools is additional staff, who are appointed by the school governing body.
“Unfortunately, state funds don’t cover electricity and municipal levies, and schools still have to add running expenses. They pay for teachers and the maintenance of equipment. All these things cost money,” Colditz said.
Another former Model C institution, Johannesburg’s King Edward VII School (KES), charged R45 500 for boarding and R33 000 for tuition this year. KES principal David Lovatt said tuition fees rose between 8% and 9% annually.
“An additional 32 educators are employed, plus 30-odd support staff,” said Lovatt.
He said the fees also allowed the school to keep facilities like the library, computer laboratories and “specialist teaching venues” in good condition.
The money is worth it, Lovatt insisted. For their fees, the boys at KES are promised “first-class facilities”, additional teachers, smaller class sizes and “112 years of established tradition and excellence”.
Even though the fees seem out of reach, the school is much in demand. Lovatt said it received about 1 000 applications for 240 spaces each year.
Tony Reeler, the principal of Pretoria Boys’ High, said: “We try to keep our fee increase to a single-digit increase and always keep in mind the inflation forecast for the next year.
“Our biggest expense is the salaries that we pay to staff. Roughly half the teachers on staff are employed by the school and more than 100 support staff – admin, grounds, catering, etc – are also supported by the school.”
Reeler acknowledged that parents were paying a lot. “But in terms of value for money, they get an excellent education for their child. We believe we offer a similar or better education than most independent schools at roughly one-third of the price,” he said.
Pretoria Boys’ High gave its pupils a wide subject choice, classes smaller than 30 and a vast extramural programme – 14 sports, and about 30 other clubs and societies, Reeler said.
In Durban, the former Model C Westville Boys’ High is set to charge R36 000, including boarding and tuition,
Our biggest expense is the salaries that we pay to staff. Roughly half the teachers on staff are employed by the school and more than 100 support staff – admin, grounds, catering, etc – are also supported
TONY REELER, PRINCIPAL OF PRETORIA BOYS’ HIGH SCHOOL
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