Payment calculation ‘unfair’
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.