Pay­ment cal­cu­la­tion ‘un­fair’

Sunday Times - - NEWS - By PREGA GOVEN­DER

Coun­sel ar­gued that the for­mula used for the cal­cu­la­tion of fee ex­emp­tions was prej­u­di­cial to sin­gle par­ents

The for­mula used to cal­cu­late school fee ex­emp­tion applications from sin­gle, sep­a­rated or di­vorced moth­ers was thrust into the spot­light in the Supreme Court of Ap­peal in Bloem­fontein this week.

Coun­sel for the Equal Education Law Cen­tre, act­ing on be­half of Michelle Saf­fer, a di­vorced mother from Cape Town, ar­gued that one of the reg­u­la­tions re­lat­ing to the ex­emp­tion of par­ents from the pay­ment of school fees in pub­lic schools was in­con­sis­tent with the con­sti­tu­tion.

Saf­fer has been em­broiled in a le­gal bat­tle after her ap­pli­ca­tion for a fee ex­emp­tion for her daugh­ter was re­fused by her school in 2011 be­cause it also wanted Saf­fer’s for­mer hus­band’s fi­nan­cial state­ments.

Ac­cord­ing to the law cen­tre, the school be­lieved Saf­fer and her for­mer hus­band were a “fam­ily unit”, and when ap­ply­ing for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance the “an­nual gross com­bined in­come” of both bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents had to be con­sid­ered.

How­ever, be­cause the for­mer cou­ple had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship, she was not able to se­cure her ex-hus­band’s as­sis­tance.

When the school turned down her ap­pli­ca­tion in 2013, the cen­tre won an or­der from the High Court in Cape Town that both par­ents were each li­able for 50% of their child’s school fees.

But the West­ern Cape gov­ern­ment ap­pealed, and the case as well as a cross-ap­peal by Saf­fer’s le­gal coun­sel was heard in the Supreme Court this week.

Saf­fer’s coun­sel ar­gued that the for­mula used to cal­cu­late fee ex­emp­tions was prej­u­di­cial to sin­gle par­ents whose part­ners or for­mer part­ners failed to sup­ply de­tails of their in­come. They also ar­gued that the def­i­ni­tion of “com­bined an­nual gross in­come of par­ents” was in­con­sis­tent with the con­sti­tu­tion and in­valid.

The draft Ba­sic Education Laws Amend­ment Bill could pro­vide re­lief to sin­gle par­ents once it be­comes law, be­cause it states that a par­ent may sub­mit an af­fi­davit that the other par­ent of the pupil is un­trace­able when ap­ply­ing for a fee ex­emp­tion.

Judg­ment was re­served.

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