SINGLE PARENTS WILL PAY LOWER SCHOOL FEES

In a recent SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) Court case – Head of Department: Western Cape Education Department & another v S (Women’s Legal Centre as Amicus Curiae) (1209/2016) [2017] ZASCA 187 (13 December 2017) it was found that a single parent could and should be given a school exemption.

Section 40 of the South African Schools Act No. 84 of 1996 states that:
40 (1) “A parent is liable to pay the school fees determined in terms of section 39 unless or to the extent that he or she has been exempted from payment in terms of this Act.”
40 (2) goes on to say a “parent may appeal to the Head of Department against a decision of a governing
body regarding the exemption of such parent from payment of school fees.”

Single parents will no longer need their ex-spouses to qualify for a school fees exemption, this followed on from a case concerning a Western Cape mother who applied for a school fees exemption. The school concerned wanted both her and her estranged ex-husband to fill in a form, because they both constituted a “family unit” even though she had custody of the daughter.

The mother of the child found that this process discriminatory, humiliating and unreasonable, the SCA Judgement, therefore made it clear that in circumstances where one parent has refused or failed to provide their income details, public schools shall grant a conditional fee exemption to the parent who has custody over the child, having regard to that parent’s income.

This conditional fee exemption shall be similar to an exemption that a parent would receive if there were the only parent of the learner concerned.

The granting of such a conditional exemption will not limit the public school from taking legal steps to enforce payment by the other parent for the balance of the school fees. This ensures that non-custodial parents are held responsible where required.

We hope that all our readers enjoy the festive season and have enjoyed our blogs. Should you have any legal issues, kindly note our offices are closed from the 24th of December 2019 until the 6th of January 2020. If you need to contact our offices in between that period, contact Charmaine Schwenn on 083 789 7638 or email charmaine@schwenninc.co.za.