Private schools are extending their reach
JEANNE VAN DER MERWE
With the annual fees of high-end public schools rivalling those of lower-fee private schools and the growth of private education franchises, private tuition is increasingly becoming an option for South Africa’s middle- and lower-middle class parents.
Of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa’s 681 member schools, just over a third charge less than R28,000, which is estimated to be the highest fees charged by public schools. Of those 255 schools, 119 charge R15,200 or less and 32 charge less than R6,800.
Jaco Deacon, the deputy CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) says the average annual tuition fee for public primary schools in South Africa is between R5,500 and R6,000, and for secondary schools between R6,500 and R7,500.
“There are great variances in fees both within the public- and private school sector,” said Deacon.
“Within a large franchise, private school fees may be lower than in a one-man concern. When looking at the value proposition of public versus private, you also have to look at facilities and what activities are included in the fees.
“Something that can’t be calculated in economic terms is that in your public school, you have a teacher appointed by the education department, with pension and a fairly long career. The longer he’s there, the more his salary grows. There is therefore much more stability in that structure.
“My own experience is that within private schools you tend to have teachers who are already on pension and are teaching to supplement their income, or those who have just completed training. In public schools there is therefore far more continuity, whereas private schools tend to have a much higher staff turnover.”
Dr Jane Hofmeyr, executive director of ISASA said many of its member schools tend to be based around faith or particular values, and that cost was not always the main consideration for parents when choosing these schools.
“In general, parents choose independent schools because they want more, better or different education: access to education where there are no public schools available; quality education; or education different to that provided by the public system – faith-based schools, or alternative philosophies such as those found in Montessori or Waldorf ones.”
She conceded that low- and even mid-fee independent schools may not be able to match the salaries and benefits offered by the public school service, but staff retention also depended on the school and the area in which it is situated.
“Many low-fee schools are established and staffed by teachers who are committed professionals and motivated less by financial reward than a desire to work within a well-managed, values-based school,” she said.
She said the number of low-fee private schools have been increasing, and at least a third of her organisation’s members fall into this category.
“They serve disadvantaged black communities which are those who typically suffer most from poor quality public education,” she said.