File picture: Independent Media
Durban - School governing bodies and a parents' association said they were in full support of the probe into the cost of school uniforms after claims of price-fixing.

Tim Gordon, chief executive of the National Governing Body Foundation, said schools should not be involved in business, but should be teaching children.

He said parents should get good-quality uniforms for their children at reasonable prices regardless of which shop uniforms were bought from.

“We, as the governing body, and parents should ensure that shops provide quality at reasonable prices. Obviously, in any set-up you find chancers.

"It is good that the allegations are investigated, as long as the commission will take into consideration the different circumstances of the different communities, and hopefully this alleged collusion will not affect the wearing of uniforms in schools,” Gordon said.

Sipho Ngwema, the Competitions Commission head of communications, said the investigation into the anti-competitive behaviour in the school uniform sector had reached an advanced stage and that more details would be made public in a “couple of weeks”.

He said the commission undertook a survey which revealed that a large number of schools were not familiar with a circular (0630/15) issued by the Basic Education Department on May 15, 2015, regulating school uniform buying.

He said in January last year, the commissioner initiated a complaint against a number of schools, including school uniform manufacturers and suppliers, for potential contraventions of section 5(1), section 8(a) and/or section 8(c) of the School Uniforms Act.

It was recently reported that parents complained they could only buy school uniform items from a specifically identified supplier without any other options being available to them.

Items

They consequently paid high prices for these items.

Ngwema said uniform suppliers complained that some schools had entered into contracts with certain suppliers, giving them the exclusive right to sell the items of that particular school.

Consequently, potential or new suppliers could not enter the market to compete with suppliers benefiting from exclusive agreements.

The national Basic Education Department reportedly welcomed the probe into the possible collusion over uniforms, with spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga saying the constitution did not negotiate access to quality education.

However, Mhlanga could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Vee Gani, chairman of the KZN Parents' Association: South Durban Region, said the commission had their support for the probe.

“We can’t have children wearing a particular uniform from a particular shop at an exorbitant price.

"If there is collusion, then the commission must stop it,” Gani said.

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