Are schools allowed to charge re-registration fees? An expert says no

Concerned parents have reached out to us with alarming reports that schools are charging re-admission fees for existing pupils, with some asking families for as much as R3000 - for a spot they already have.

This mom mailed Parent24 with her concerns, echoing those of many:

Good day,

I am from KZN and my child is in Grade R. I was shocked to see a letter from the school stating that learners have to be readmitted for a fee of R200.

Is this allowed?

My son' s details are already on the system, school fees are paid for this year so why must there be an admin fee? He is in a fee paying government school. This school finds numerous ways to get money the whole year.

They have a tuckshop in each of the grade R classrooms. The school had a meeting to inform us that the learners can only bring sweets on Fridays and then they started selling it. My son wasn't too bothered about money, until the tuckshop was started.

I have a son at another government school and that school doesn't charge re-registration fees.

Please help me with a way forward as the principal, HOD and secretary of this school are very rude, and often tell parents off. I have no choice in keeping my son there as I am a teaching student and it is near the house we are buying.

When school fees are not paid in full they even keep the report cards and tell parents to go to the office. They then make arrangements and charge R200 for that admin.

Is this allowed?

His school fees are paid but I know of many poor parents blindly signing this and accepting it. Please get back to me with maybe a school act or some way I can address this professionally as I do not want to go there and get shouted at.

We are required to pay R200 to receive the re-admissions form or there wont be place for next year.

Please assist.

Kind regards,

Concerned Mom

Paying R3000 out of fear 

Parents have commented on Facebook that they have paid re-registration fees between R200 and R3000, depending on the school, out of fear that their child might lose their place.

One parent said she pays a non-refundable fee of R3000 every year as a registration fee for her child.

Sue Larkan of Tabansi, who advocates for students and parents, has provided advice relating to this matter.

She explained that the Education Laws Amendment Act, 2005 (Act 24 of 2005) added subsection (5) to Section 39 of SASA, which reads as follows:

"(5) No public school may charge any registration, administration or other fees except school fees as defined in Section 1

See the official amendment here: Clarity on the definition of school fees in terms of the Education Laws Amendment Act, 2005 (Act No. 24 of 2005)

She says parents must complete the re-registration forms for statistical purposes. This informs the school that your child will be returning next year, and assists them with the updating of any personal information that might have changed.

Then Larkan advises parents to write the following at the bottom of the form:

The  South African Schools’ Act 84 of 1996, in section 39(5) determines that no public school may charge any registration, administration or other fees except school fees as defined in Section 1.

Larkan explained that school fees are charged as from the first day of the year, and installment fees between 10-11 months are permitted. Section 6 of the admission policy also says unlawful practices may not be reflected or practiced in school admission policies at public schools.

"If the school insists on these extra fees, ask them to provide you with the legislation that determines that re-registration has to be paid for," she told Parent24. "A Public school cannot de-register a child if they are already attending."   

Withholding report cards is illegal 

Schools are allowed to ask you to collect your child's report card for various reasons such as discussing a child's progress but they can not force you to sign and acknowledgement of debt (AOD) if you have outstanding school fees.

Section 25 (12) of the National Protocol on Assessment 2011 states, for both public and independent schools from grade R to grade 12, that a school may not withhold a report card.

Must Read: Withholding school reports, for any reason, is against the law

Fund raising, a necessary annoyance 

Schools are mandated in the South African Schools Act (SASA) to raise funds through donations, fundraisers (learners involvement), parents, and functions.

The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 especially refers to fund raising, stating that it "imposes a responsibility on all public school governing bodies to do their utmost to improve the quality of education in their schools by raising additional resources to supplement those which the state provides from public funds (section 36)."

"All parents, but particularly those who are less poor or who have good incomes, are thereby encouraged to increase their own direct financial and other contributions to the quality of their children’s education in public schools. The Act does not interfere unreasonably with parents’ discretion under the law as to how to spend their own resources on their children’s education." 

Larkan agrees that schools do need more finances than what is provided by the government, and urges parents to consider being involved at their children schools and to participate in all meetings, especially the AGM (Budget Meetings) where you can have your say as a parent.

UPDATE:

After we published this article, another parent shared their experience of this situation with us:

Good day,

I just read your article regarding re-registration fees.

I was called earlier today by my child’s prospective school for next year and was informed that my child has been accepted, but before they can do a final acceptance, we must pay R2300 which consists of R1500 for one month’s school fees for next year, and an R800 IT levy.

The school stated that this amount is due before final acceptance can be done.

I called our district education department and they confirmed that this is not allowed and the child will still be placed in the school regardless of whether this amount is paid or not.

It is the parent’s prerogative to make an arrangement as to when this money can be paid, but it is not a prerequisite/condition for admission, as the GDE (Gauteng Dept of Education) has already placed the child. 

Just thought you can share with your readers because some parents might be intimidated by the school, thinking they have to pay or their child will not be admitted.

Kind regards,

Mom A

Compiled for Parent24 by Anneline Hlangani 

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