School fees and the law

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13 Jan 2022

Although the value of education is priceless, the actual price tag on schooling can be a heavy burden on parents. Understand your rights when it comes to the paying of school fees and other related costs.

Our legal expert, Chantel Cronje, guides you through some of your rights when it comes to the paying of school fees and other related costs.

School fees exemptions

According to South Africa’s Constitution, every child has the right to schooling. Unfortunately though, education is not free and it does not come cheap. There is however some financial relief for parents who can apply for total or partial exemption from paying public school fees.

An exemption is when you are no longer expected to pay either a portion or the complete amount of the school fees being charged.

“No fee” schools

If your school is declared a “no fee” school by the minister of education due to it being located in a poor community, you do not have to pay school fees, including any activity or extra mural fees.

Full exemption

If the school fees are 10% or more of your total income, you will then be entitled to a full exemption. This means you will not have to pay any school fees.

Partial exemption

If the school fees are between 3,5% and 10% of your total income you qualify for a partial exemption. This means you will only have to pay a certain portion of the full fee.

Conditional exemption

If the school fees are between 2% and 3% of your income, an exemption will depend on the number of children you have currently enrolled at no-fees public schools.

If the school fees are less than 2% of your salary, you don’t qualify for any exemption.

Automatic exemption

It is illegal to charge any school fees for:

  • An orphan in an orphanage;
  • A learner who has a foster parent;
  • A learner placed in a youth care centre or a place of safety;
  • A learner who has been placed in the care of a family member;
  • A child who heads a household or is part of a child-headed household;
  • Parents who receive a social grant on behalf of the same learner (child support grant).

How to apply for an exemption

Forms to apply for school fee exemptions should be available at your local school.

Find out more about the school fee exemption process from the department of basic education’s website:

How not paying school fees can affect your child and you

It is also important to know that a learner cannot be disciplined or excluded from participation in any official school programmes due to non-payment of school fees by the parent. A school is also not allowed to refuse to give out a learner’s report because the parent cannot afford to pay the school’s fees. However a school does have the right to sue the parents who are legally responsible to pay and who do not qualify for any exemptions.

Recent changes to the law

The law has recently changed when it comes to divorced parents and exemptions for school fees. Previously the law only looked at the joint gross (total) income of their parents and held them jointly legally responsible for their children’s fees.

However, last year the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that single parents may have their application for exemption of school fees assessed according to their own financial means and not on a combined income. This means a school can claim a portion of the fees from each parent and parents cannot separately be held liable for the full amount where an exemption has been applied for.

If you would like further expert guidance about your child’s legal rights at school, contact your companion – Legal&Tax. We are there to help protect every member of your family, even the youngest additions!

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Chantel Cronje

Chantel Cronje is a Senior Legal Advisor and the Manager of the Debt Solutions Department at Legal & Tax Services. Her daily duties include giving valuable legal advice and assistance... Read more about Chantel Cronje


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