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Cashstrapped parents are prepared to sell their homes and cancel annual holidays to get children into quality schools, say principals of the province’s top public and independent schools.
Some cost only R300 a year, others have fees that are more than R100 000, but, no matter where they are, good schools are in demand.
Durban parent Jennifer Andrews, whose youngest son is in matric at the R80 000-a-year independent Clifton School in Morningside, said that family holidays had been sacrificed and many of her friends with children had downgraded their vehicles and were running lift clubs to cut costs.
“School fees are through the roof. That is our biggest sacrifice each month. Any extras the school asks us to pay – like the R3 000 development levy, which is compulsory, or overseas tours I deeply resent,” she said.
“But parents are so paranoid about high school education, we just can’t think of any other alternative.”
Yvonne Johnstone, principal of the century-old public school Gordon Road Girls’ School, which costs more than R20 000 a year, said the available places for next year had been filled by April.
“In the state schools we are not allowed to have waiting lists, but the demand for our education is very high,” she said.
Lynne Neilson of Durban Girls’ College said the R70 000-a-year school had waiting lists for most grades. A number of children had been enrolled by parents – particularly those who were past pupils – when they were born.
Guy Pearson, rector at the R170 000-a-year Michaelhouse, said they had two applications for each bed in the boarding school near Nottingham Road.
“Parents are making huge sacrifices; they are liquidating assets to keep boys at the school. Also, paying school fees has become a family affair.
“Nowadays parents are calling on grandparents to help. Unfortunately, the demise of some of our state-run schools is pushing demand for private schools,” he said.
Mbongeni Mtshali, head of the highly regarded Velabahleke School in Umlazi, which costs R300 a year, said demand for good schooling was the same no matter how much parents earned.
“We have parents here who will give their last cent; they will go without food to make sure their children can come to our school,” he said.
“We have extra maths classes on Saturdays which cost R50 a term. Parents are having cake sales to afford these classes,” Mtshali said.
He said he put up notices advertising that there was no space.
“But they still come, saying they want to present their case. ‘This is the school I have chosen for my child,’ they say.”
And with school fee increases for next year going up by between 7 percent and 10 percent and uniforms by between 5 percent and 7 percent, Trevor Kershaw, head of Glenwood High School, said parents were feeling the pressure.
“Yes, things are tight, and I know parents are making big sacrifices, but somehow they are paying as we have collected the same percentage of our school fees as last year and our bad debts have not increased,” he said.