SADTU calls for government to do away with school fees

By Staff Writer
Following the hype around the nationwide student call for free education, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) has raised their voices in support, saying ‘that free education should be compulsory’ from the level of Primary school.

"The majority of parents cannot afford to pay for education and they might stand up one day and that day is closer than we realise,” said SADTU general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke.

The cost of school fees
According to SADTU, some high schools fees range between R36 000 and R40 000, with some running as high as R60 000, this being more than some university courses cost.

Maluleke came out in calling for the Department of Basic Education to be more proactive on this issue, so that they can avoid a similar crisis in the future.

“Nobody can predict what might happen but the issue is that we should provide proactive leadership, and begin to ask how best we are going to be able to provide free education and not wait until there is a crisis to respond to,” said Maluleke.

“Access to quality education is surely the biggest leveller of the playing field when it comes to opening opportunities for young, disadvantaged South Africans. All possible interventions to revive our economy and create jobs – if the ANC ever get round to this – will be in vain if we don’t produce a new generation of skilled, empowered South Africans to step into these jobs,” said Mmusi Maimane, federal leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), in a statement on Monday.

SADTU has also implored Basic Education Minister Angie Motshegka to address the issue of high school fees, likening the current fees to that of paying a second bond.

In response the Department, via its spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, said: “School governing bodies and parents set school fees, not the department.”

Free education
According to Mhlanga, the department had made provision in catering to financially disadvantaged students through the ‘pro-poor package’, a package that included “no-fee schools, nutrition programmes, textbooks at greatly reduced prices and transport services.”

He continued to explain the five category division of all public schools and its corresponding government subsidy. “Quintile one to quintile three schools usually do not demand fees, whereas quintile four and quintile five schools charge fees to make up for the lower government subsidy they receive.”

The issue with this system is that clear divisions have been made and with that privilege is manifested. So schools in the upper quintiles are receiving a more rounded education to those in the lower quintiles that were not expected to pay school fees. It is also difficult for the schools who do not benefit from school fees to develop and make needed changes without the necessary financial support. So often these schools are dilapidated, overcrowded and lacking the needed learning material.

"You have a greater variety of activities in fee-paying schools, such as sport activities, that the state does not subsidise. They are also able to appoint more teachers and reduce class sizes,” said Paul Colditz, Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools chief executive.

“This is not a wave of discontent, it is a tsunami. President Zuma and his government had better act quickly and boldly, or they willdiscover just how powerful people can be when they have nothing to lose,” said Maimane. 

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