GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - The jobs of 11 000 educators in school governing body (SGB) posts are on the line due to non-payment of school fees - an economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The issue in 2021 is whether parents who lost their jobs because of Covid, can still keep paying school fees.
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) says many schools have been struggling to pay staff and other expenses due to a decrease in fee collection from parents.
Many schools rely on their fee collection to pay the additional SGB posts, over and above their establishment provided by the WCED, says communications director Bronagh Hammond.
WCED educators are however not affected. "Their salaries have continued as per normal; however, the staff that are appointed by SGBs are reliant on funds generated by the SGB. Schools are trying to do what they can to support their teachers that are SGB appointed, but if parents do not pay fees, it is a definite struggle."
Jonavon Rustin, secretary of Sadtu (South African Democratic Teachers Union) in the Western Cape, says they believe education should be free, but that the South African Schools Act makes provision for school fees to be paid. "We regard it as a basic human right."
They are also of the opinion that SGBs should be careful when setting up their budgets and determining the school fees for the following year. "This budget has to be done in consultation with the parents, since many of them lost their jobs or took a reduction in salary.
"Where parents do not have the funds or are unemployed or have taken a huge cut in salary, those parents must make an application to the school for fee exemption." Sadtu advises parents to take stock of their salaries and then apply for exemption, either partially or in full.
"Schools then do not have to suffer in that regard, because they can claim back those fees from the state, which then provides a subsidy back to the school and will make up for those unpaid fees." Rustin says in these difficult times we should work together to make sure that no one suffers, especially not the children.
The WCED encourages parents to pay school fees where possible, but, says Hammond, parents can apply for fee exemption. "It is important that parents do fill in these forms if they qualify, as the forms are then sent to the WCED by schools when applying for fee compensation."
Qualifying for exemption
There are about 570 fee-charging schools in the Western Cape. Learners are exempted from paying school fees if they are orphans or have been abandoned by their parents; if they receive a poverty-linked state social grant or if the parents have received exemption from the SGB.
Parents qualify for exemption if the school fees are more than 10% of the parents' combined annual salary.
Hammond says parents can apply for partial exemption if the fees represent between 2% and 10% of their annual salary, depending on the number of children they have at a fee-paying public school.
The DBE also allocated funds for the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which aims to provide jobs for teaching assistants, as well as to support SGB posts at fee-paying schools.
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