Back-to-School Costs Continue to be a Burden for Parents

School fees and the cost of buying those back-to-school essentials continue to be hot topics in South Africa and a big headache for the parents who foot the bill. Governing bodies of some state schools across the country have recently met to decide on school fee increases, with many parents being burdened by what has been branded the “privatisation of public education”. This is making even state schools unaffordable for many families.

On top of those fees, parents also have to pay for all those all-important school essentials, such as uniforms, sports equipment, stationery and school trips. That makes the start of the new school year a huge headache for many parents who are doling out thousands of rand every year.

The price of education in South Africa

The South African Constitution Bill of Rights states that all children have the right to an education, but it doesn’t say anything about how much that will cost. Research from the financial services company Old Mutual, suggests that the cost of educating a child in South Africa is on the rise, particularly when you factor in the sharp increases in education inflation.

However, despite these rising costs, 54 percent of South African parents are still not actively saving for their child’s education. There are a number of different ways parents can save, but perhaps the key lesson parents need to learn is the importance of starting early.

With education inflation currently so high, parents with a child starting grade R in 2017 can expect to pay between R1,332,113 and R3,011,315 for public and private school respectively throughout their education. That price includes primary school, high school and a three-year course at university.

The cost of back-to-school essentials

Some schools require children to buy branded items at the school shop, which can cost up to three times more than the price charged by retailers. Even the stationery list can cost parents thousands of rand a year depending on what is required by the particular school. Some schools also ask parents to buy tablets and ebooks and even specify where they should get them from.

Although very little can be done about school fees, parents do have at least a degree of control over the cost of those back-to-school essentials. The personal loan provider Wonga South Africa recently published a list of useful tips on their blog parents can follow to try and bring the costs down.

Probably the most effective way to reduce the cost of those items is to buy them over the course of the year and not a couple of weeks before the end of the school holidays when prices will be high. For example, the best time to buy the uniform is in November and December when it’s at its cheapest.

While it’s clear that the gift of education is the best thing you can offer your child, these days, it’s clear that a state school education certainly doesn’t come for free.

What is your experience of state school fees and the cost of back-to-school essentials? Please share your views in the comments below. 

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