The Department of Basic Education’s budget allocation for the 2020/2021 financial year decreased by 5.3% compared to the previous year.
This comes as an increasing number of parents with children who attend fee-paying public schools are no longer able to afford school fees. This has put the government's budget allocation for basic education under increased pressure.
Many parents have lost their jobs and have experienced a lot of financial struggles due to the effects of the national lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This has meant that they were not able to pay their children's school fees.
The survey done by the TPN Credit Bureau reflected that this was the case as schools were encountering issues with the collection of school fees.
TPN Credit Bureau, Managing Director Michelle Dickens spoke to 702 Radio, saying that parents are entitled to ask for an exemption from paying school fees should they not earn an income.
“During the lockdown, less than one in two parents were paid up in full. August was the worst month for school fee collection with only 45.9% of parents paid up. This increased in November when 52% of parents were paid up.”- TPN Credit Bureau, Managing Director Michelle Dickens.
In South Africa about two-thirds of all children attend no fee schools, this leaves the government to funding for these schools.
The fee-paying public schools are reliant on the school fees they receive from parents because this is used to pay for additional teachers not funded by the department as well as additional costs incurred by the school.
"We also saw private schools faced with fees collecting challenges," said Dickens.
TPN says that this inability to collect fees that are owing has negative implications for schools in terms of budgeting and sustainability, as school fees is the largest source of income for more than 90% of private schools and 60% of public schools.
“The challenge facing many schools – even prior to the Covid crisis – is that paying school fees is not a high priority amongst a growing body of parents who are prioritising mortgages, rent, car finance, store cards and even pay day loans over school fees.”- TPN Credit Bureau, Managing Director Michelle Dickens.
21.6% of learners who leave the education system have said the reason for dropping out of school is due to a lack of money to pay school fees.
Dickens says that the cost of education is not only limited to school fees and that parents also have to pay for transport or have their children walk very far to get to school.
It is expected that more parents will apply for exemptions from fee paying public schools as the country experiences the effects of an economic downturn due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
One way that schools are able to determine if parents qualify for an exemption is by making an enquiry through a credit bureau, such as TPN.
Schools are also able to make use of credit checks (which requires permission from the parent), letters of demand and blacklisting in the same way that businesses can.