Skyrocketing School Fees Squeeze South African Parents

School Fees
  1. South African parents are struggling with rising education costs, as school fee hikes range between 4% and 6% in 2023, and education inflation is expected to surpass the Consumer Price Index by 3%.
  2. Many households are already grappling with the increasing cost of living, and education expenses are set to outpace salary inflation, making it more difficult for parents to afford their children’s education.
  3. Failure to pay school fees can negatively affect a person’s credit score and have serious consequences for a child’s education, with different implications for private and government schools.

As parents across South Africa struggle to keep up with the rising cost of education, Paul Esterhuizen, CEO of School-Days, warns that school fee hikes show no sign of abating. The cost of education in both government and private schools is increasing, with fee hikes in 2023 projected to range between 4% and 6%. Esterhuizen also noted that education inflation is expected to exceed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) by 3%, amounting to approximately 10% in March 2023, adding to the financial burden on parents already grappling with the increasing cost of living.

Furthermore, education costs are anticipated to outpace salary inflation, which will make it even more challenging for parents to afford their children’s education. Financial services firm TPN Credit Bureau reported that by the end of 2022, over 40% of school fee accounts were in arrears. Alarmingly, TPN also found that 25% of parents made no payments whatsoever towards outstanding school fees.

In addition to school fees, parents must also cover the costs of essentials such as uniforms, books, sports equipment, and school trips, which add to their monthly expenses. Many households in South Africa are already feeling the strain of rising inflation, which is pushing up the cost of living.

The South African Reserve Bank has been attempting to curb inflation by increasing interest rates. However, these efforts have largely been unsuccessful, with inflation remaining outside the target range of 3% to 6%. This is primarily due to higher food prices, which continue to drive up the cost of living.

As a result of the interest rate hikes, many households are now struggling to make payments on their bonds and other loans, leading to increased debt costs. Esterhuizen cautions that failing to pay school fees can also negatively affect a person’s credit score, which in turn can increase the cost of borrowing.

Moreover, non-payment of school fees can have serious consequences for a child’s education. Ashleigh Laurent, legal counsel at TPN, explained that private school parents who default on payments receive a letter of demand and are given 20 business days to settle the outstanding balance. If a parent still fails to pay after this period, the school can decide to exclude the child from attending.

Parents with children enrolled in government schools receive slightly more protection, according to Esterhuizen. Public schools must assess whether parents qualify for full, partial, or conditional exemption from fees before taking action against non-payment. Additionally, public schools must inform parents in writing if they have not applied for an exemption. If payment is not received, a letter of demand may be sent to parents with a three-month payment deadline from the date of receipt of the letter.

As education costs continue to soar in South Africa, it is clear that parents must navigate a challenging financial landscape in order to provide their children with the education they deserve. The ongoing struggle to afford school fees, coupled with increasing inflation, paints a concerning picture for the future of South African households.

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