Must parents still pay fees during a school shutdown?

The debate on fees still continues, but the information is clear.

From 27 July until 24 August 2020, schools will be closed due to the spike in coronavirus cases in South Africa. This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent address.

The subject of schools closing and reopening again has presented the department of education and school management teams with some unique challenges. A lot of strategy and creativity have had to be put in place to help them navigate these issues.

There has been a lot of disagreements from different stakeholders regarding what schools should do to contain the virus and encourage learning.

“What everyone does agree on, however, is that the health, academic and social development of learners must remain our foremost concerns,” according to Ramaphosa.

This means that even during the lockdown, learning will still be encouraged.

Therefore, parents will still be liable for school fees because their children will still be receiving school work.

Also Read: I give up, Angie, now you’re going to close schools, again?

Public versus private schools

There is no denying that the lockdown has hit a lot of people’s pockets. Some have even been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs and sources of income. Parents like this with children in public schools can be calm knowing that their child’s education may continue.

According to a Business Tech article on fees, the South African Schools Act protects school children whose parents cannot continue paying school fees. This is because public schools, even fee-paying ones, are fulfilling a constitutional responsibility of fulfilling the basic human right to education.

Palesa Molao, a grade 4 mom whose child in in private school, informed us that the school gave them a fee discount of 10% to assist parents. This means that the fee structure remains the same, and parents are still liable to pay.

“I have had to actively teach my child because the school work is there, but sometimes the help isn’t, which the big difference with attending the actual school”.

Palesa shares that, “I am slightly bothered by having to still pay even the discounted fee, but still grateful that we can continue learning during this time, and the school is making an effort”.

Also Read: Mr President, what about private schools?

Private school parents, however, do not share the same benefits as those in public schools. As they decided to enjoy what they deem to be a superior education, they are, therefore, not exempt from paying fees, regardless of the circumstances.

According to the law firm Werkmans, “the immovable property of parents is executable for payment of arrear school fees”. Independent and private schools can take drastic steps to collect school fees, even during a lockdown.


It is a parent’s right to deregister their child from a private or independent school if they deem it necessary. You will still be liable to pay for that month’s fees but will be excused for the academic year.

A lot of parents have opted for this route, even with the understanding of the implications deregistration has on schools. Many of the operational costs of schools still stand, e.g salaries.

Also Read: Yes, I deregistered my toddler from school

No refunds

Refunds are executed when a service is not being offered. In this case, children are merely not attending school physically, but are still required to work from home. School teachers are still playing the role of sending school work and assisting where they could.

On these grounds alone, parents will continue being liable for the fees until the completion of the academic year which might continue into 2021 according to Ramaphosa.

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