Legal Reasons for Not Paying School Fees in South Africa

In South Africa, there are several legal grounds for exempting parents from paying school fees, particularly in public schools, as outlined by the South African Schools Act and government regulations. Here are the main legal exemptions available:

Income-Based Exemptions:

If the school fees amount to 10% or more of the family’s total income, parents can qualify for a full exemption. For fees that represent between 3.5% and 10% of the income, a partial exemption is available. These exemptions are meant to alleviate the financial burden on families earning lower incomes.

  • Full Exemption: If a family’s total income is such that the school fees are 10% or more of it, the family is entitled to not pay any school fees. For example, if a family earns R10,000 per month and the school fees are R1,000 per month or more, they can apply for a full exemption.
  • Partial Exemption: If the school fees amount to between 3.5% and 10% of the total income, the parents qualify for a reduction in the fee. For instance, if a family earns R10,000 per month and the school fees are between R350 and R1,000 per month, they would pay a reduced fee based on a sliding scale.

Automatic Exemptions:

The law provides automatic exemptions for specific categories of students, including orphans, children in foster care, children who are part of a child-headed household, and children whose parents receive a social grant on their behalf, like the child support grant.

  • Orphans or Foster Children: An orphan living in an orphanage or a child in foster care is automatically exempt from paying school fees.
  • Child-headed Households: A child who heads a household, or is part of a child-headed household, is also exempt from school fees.
  • Recipients of Social Grants: Children whose parents receive a social grant for them (e.g., a child support grant) are exempt from paying school fees.
See also  Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 Summary and Purpose

“No Fee” Schools:

Schools located in poorer communities might be designated as “no fee” schools by the education minister. Students attending these schools are exempt from paying any school fees.

Special Circumstances:

If a parent undergoes significant financial changes, such as retrenchment, they can apply for their fees to be waived until their financial situation improves.

It’s crucial for parents to actively communicate with school authorities and apply formally for these exemptions if they find themselves unable to meet school fee obligations. Schools are also mandated by law not to deny any child access to education due to non-payment of fees, ensuring every child’s right to basic education is upheld​