Since 1994, the government’s efforts to redress historical imbalances and achieve equity were fundamental policy mechanisms to restructure South African education
Equity reforms in post-apartheid South Africa were intended to equalise funding among provinces, schools and socio-economic groups. This was undertaken through national policies that would direct state funding to public schools. The most significant legislation was the National Education Policy Act 27 of 1996, the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 (SASA) and the Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998.
In terms of section 34 of SASA, the state must fund public schools from public revenue on an equitable basis to ensure the proper exercise of the rights of learners to education and the redress of past inequalities in education provision. Paragraph 2 of section 34 mandates the state to, on an annual basis, provide sufficient information to public schools regarding the funding allocated to them to enable public schools to prepare their budgets for the next financial year. To address equity in funding school education, the South African government introduced the National Norms and Standards for School Funding (Norms and Standards) policy which provides a statutory basis for school funding in that schools are now classified into wealth quintiles and subsidised accordingly. This policy ensures that schools serving poorer communities receive more state funding than schools serving better-off communities.
In terms of the Norms and Standards, the Education Ministry does not decide on the amounts to be allocated annually for provincial education departments (PEDs). This is the responsibility of provincial governments and legislatures, which must make appropriations to their education departments from the total revenue resources available to their provinces. Thus, each province determines its own level of spending on education in relation to its overall assessment of needs and resources. Section 39(7) of SASA, however, requires the Minister to annually determine the national quintiles for public schools or part of such quintiles by notice in the Government Gazette, which must be used by the PEDs when allocating funds to the schools and to identify schools that may not charge school fees.
Below are the national quintiles extracted from Government Gazette 44254, Government Notice 192 of 10 March 2021:
Table 1 National table of targets for school allocation (2021–2022)
|NQ1–Q3||1 466||1 536||1 610|
|No fee threshold||1 466||1 536||1 610|
|Small schools national fixed amount||33 968||35 598||37 307|
Initially, the budget information provided to schools by PEDs may be indicative rather than fully detailed. In time, such information should include the current year’s expenditures at each school and the guideline amount of the total allocation by the PED to the school for the coming school year, including all guideline personnel costs. Such costs would be expressed both in absolute and per learner terms.
In general, the school allocations are intended to cover non-personnel recurrent items and small capital items required by the school, as well as normal repairs and maintenance to the physical infrastructure of the school. Put simply, the school allocation may not be used to cover the cost of personnel and new buildings. Moreover, the school allocation is primarily and exclusively intended for the promotion of efficient and quality education in public ordinary schools. The following list provides examples of items that the school allocation may cover, and a categorisation of these items. The following items serve as examples, and do not constitute all the possible items:
- Learning support materials (LSMs) − Textbooks, library books, charts, models, computer hardware and software, televisions, video recorders, videotapes, home economics equipment, science laboratory equipment, musical instruments, learner desks, chairs.
- Non-LSM equipment − Furniture other than learner desks and chairs, paper copier machines, telephone sets, fax machines, intercom systems, equipment for connectivity within the school and to the Internet, hardware tools, cleaning equipment, first aid kits, overalls for cleaners and ground staff, sporting equipment, electrical accessories.
- Consumable items of an educational nature, including stationery for learners.
- Consumable items of a non-educational nature, including stationery for office use, paper, cleaning materials, petrol, lubricants, food.
- Services relating to repairs and maintenance, including building repair work, equipment repairs and maintenance, light bulbs.
- Other services, including workshop fees, TV licences, Internet service providers, school membership of educational associations, postage, telephone calls, electricity, water, rates and taxes, rental of equipment, audit fees.
Section 36 of SASA also 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. However, in fulfilling their obligation to raise supplementary resources, governing bodies are not required to charge school fees. Whether or not to charge school fees is a matter for the parents of the schools, where schools have not been declared no-fee schools in terms of the Norms and Standards and Section 39(7) of SASA.
The SASA links the question of fees to the budget of the school, which the governing body must present to a general meeting of parents for approval. The intention is that the governing body will give the parents all necessary information about the school’s income, from the state and other sources, and its educational needs. Parents will then decide what additional revenue the school needs for educational purposes, and how that revenue is to be raised, including whether fees are to be charged.
Parents of learners at a public school, therefore, carry the responsibility for the determination of a school’s budget, its sources of revenue, and, if fees are charged, the level of fees and the conditions for exemption of parents from paying fees. Furthermore, if a majority of parents vote in favour of school fees, each parent is responsible for paying the required fee, unless an exemption has been granted, and unless the school has been declared a no-fee school. But no learner can be denied admission, or otherwise discriminated against, on grounds of the parent’s inability or failure to pay fees.
Government Gazette 44254, Government Notice 192 of 10 March 2021.
Government Notice 29179, Amended National Norms and Standards for Schools Funding, 31 August 2006.
South African Journal of Education, 34 (3), August 2014.
South African Schools Act 84 of 1996.
Kgoboko Makhafola CA(SA), Project Manager: Public Sector at SAICA