Parents are struggling to pay fees. Picture: 123rf
Parents are struggling to pay fees. Picture: 123rf

The organisation representing private schools in SA is appealing to the government for a special financial relief for independent schools, saying only 20% of parents are paying school fees.

The strict national lockdown aimed at curbing the surge of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought put parents under pressure, with many having their salaries cut or losing their jobs altogether, while those running businesses are struggling to maintain their viability.

The independent schools are struggling for survival as parents default on school fees payments. Some schools have been forced to close down.

“If the government can avail R1.5bn to the taxi industry, why can they not do the same to save the children’s education? Parents have been retrenched and are unable to pay school fees, some parents have chosen the online platform whereas others have joined the home schooling projects,” the National Alliance of Independent Schools (Naisa) chair Mandla Mthembu said.

Naisa represents more than 1,400 independent schools in SA and has nine associations of independent schools affiliated to it.

Mthembu said the average percentage school fee payment by parents in April was about 21% and in June it was about 18%.

“This alone means that in a school with 100 parents who are supposed to be paying school fees, only 18 are paying,” Mthembu said.

“Unfortunately, you cannot run a school, pay teachers and pay for all your overheads with only 18 parents paying. Also the collection of school fees and sending out lawyers’ letters of demand is costly to the school,” he said.

Mthembu said they were also aware of the schools in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo that have shut their doors.

“In Gauteng, we have Bishop Bavin school in Bedfordview, Marne Ebersohn Academy in Limpopo and Pomeroy Christian School in Tugela Ferry in KwaZulu-Natal, all have closed their doors.

“Many teachers at the independent schools have had to face the harsh realities of retrenchments or salary cuts of up to 50%. The longer and deeper the financial squeeze, the harder it will be for schools to continue to operate efficiently,” Mthembu said.

He said they were appealing to the government for relief funds for independent schools, so the schools can continue to do their work.

Mthembu said some parents had approached the schools seeking relief with regards to school fees.

He said schools had been able to deliver online learning and teacher engagement through digital platforms such as Zoom, Google or Teams.

“However, many parents simply refuse to pay school fees as there are many of these parents adversely impacted by Covid-19 and are themselves under financial strain,” Mthembu said.

This story first appeared on  SowetanLIVE


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