The poor believe that no-fee schools offer inferior education (it's free, shit for brains! You get what you pay for)
The government’s fee-exemption policy could drive the country’s few successful public schools into bankruptcy. (could? Will. Bit by bit the fabric of society is being dismantled)
This warning issued by the Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (Acess), an association of 1500 children sector organisations, is contained in a report on the impact of the government’s fee-exemption policy on public schools.
Acess director Patricia Martin told minister of education Naledi Pandor in a letter last week that fee exemptions had “worsened the situation” for many fee-paying schools, especially those housing a high percentage of poor children.
The report maintained that:
- The number of paying parents is declining, resulting in an increase in bad debt;
- Schools are forced to cut down on employing additional teachers and have scaled back extramural activities and maintenance jobs; and
- The provincial departments of education are forcing schools to take in extra pupils, even when they are full.
Teacher unions and various former model C schools this week confirmed that they have been faced with an unprecedented influx of children, resulting in class sizes growing to as many as 40 pupils. Several no-fee schools in mainly township areas, which are meant to provide access to free education for the country’s poorest children, are standing half empty.
The Sunday Times has established that some former model C schools, bursting at the seams, are converting home economics units, biology laboratories and store rooms into extra classrooms.
Some of the schools facing increased pressure from parents who don’t pay fees include:
- Camps Bay High, in the Western Cape, where outstanding fees from last year were R826000. Of 490 pupils, 120 are either fully or partially exempt from paying fees, according to principal, David de Korte;
- Brackenfell High, in the Western Cape, where principal André Pretorius said outstanding fees from last year were 11.6% (R1.3-million) of the total budget of R12-million a year — up 4% from the previous year;
- Hoërskool Warmbad, in Limpopo, which would have had to release over 200 children if the department had not stepped in to cover the salaries of nine teachers. Its governing body chairman, Roelof Coertze, said outstanding fees handed over to debt collectors last year totalled R396851; and
- Sandringham High, in Johannesburg, where the grade 8 intake increased from 160 last year to 280 this year. Principal Lynda Paige said many of the pupils came from Alexandra and Soweto.
Mike Kessel of the Governing Body Foundation, a national consultative forum, said the influx of pupils from poor families into top-performing schools in the suburbs was mainly a result of the perception that no-fee and low-fee schools offered inferior education.
Gauteng Department of Education spokesman Nanagolo Leopeng confirmed that, in some cases, schools meant to cater for 800 pupils only had 200 registered. Hlalefang Primary School in Pimville, Soweto, was one of many schools that was forced to shut down because of dwindling pupil numbers.
Paul Colditz, of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, said the introduction of the no-fee school policy had exacerbated the problem because of the growing perception among parents that free education was inferior.
“People are voting with their feet and causing overcrowding in successful schools — not just former model C schools, but all good public schools,” he said.
Although Pandor told the Sunday Times that her department was considering offering financial support to schools that granted fee exemptions to large numbers of poor pupils, minister of finance Trevor Manuel has not allocated any money for this in his budget.
Pandor’s department is set to spend about R12-billion on the creation of more no-fee schools, despite closures or mergers at 60 such schools in Gauteng last year for various reasons, including low pupil numbers.