Rondebosch Boys High. Source: Wikipedia / Zaian
Rondebosch Boys High. Source: Wikipedia / Zaian
  • The most expensive public schools in South Africa now cost over R60,000 for the year.
  • All but one of these are in Gauteng and the Western Cape.
  • There are only two state girls' schools in the top ten - and these are around R10,000 cheaper.
  • High-end public schools may not be cheap - but they're about one-third of the price of South Africa's most expensive private schools.
  • For more stories go to BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa's most expensive state schools now cost more than R61,000 per year. By way of comparison, this is around R140,000 cheaper than South Africa's most expensive private day schools.

Although not all state schools have published their rates for the 2022 academic year, with nominal increases from last year, there will likely be at least five that cost between R61,000 and R65,000.

Given the network of public schools in South Africa, it is complex to create an exhaustive list of all fees. But as in 2020, Business Insider identified several believed to be among the most expensive.

Of the schools that published rates for 2022, Pretoria Boys' High School is the most expensive - a 9.81% increase means a year of Grade 12 there now costs R63,800. 

Assuming Rondebosch Boys' High School, last year's most expensive state school, increased fees by the average of 5%, it will have slipped to second place on the list.

King Edward VII School, also in the top three, now costs R61,300 for the year.

As with last year, boys' schools dominate the most expensive state schools list. In 2022, Business Insider has identified only two girls' schools that make the top ten most expensive -Rustenburg Girls' and Parktown Girls'. Even so, these schools are more than R10,000 cheaper than the most expensive boys' schools.

How public schools set fees

Quite how schools arrive at these fees is a complex matter that has its roots in the impact that apartheid had on South Africa's schooling system.

According to the South African Constitution, all children have the right to basic education - and that education must be free or affordable. Quite how schools set affordable fees depends on their classification, though - although there are many free, no-fee schools in South Africa, there are also those that charge upwards of R50,000 per year to parents who can afford to pay.

Parents of pupils at quintile four and five schools set these fees at a general meeting, where most parents must agree. This resolution, says the Department of Education, "will take into account the school budget, the trend in payment of school fees and exemptions which have to be granted."

This may open the door for a school and its parent body to increase fees and ensure it remains somewhat exclusive. However, government has attempted to address this by allowing certain fee exemptions and cross-funding models.

According to Section 27's Basic Education Rights Handbook, "The South African Schools Act provides that schools must be funded through public funds. In order to address the past inequities in school funding, the Schools Act allows for certain schools in more affluent areas to raise their own funds, while government fully subsidises learners in poorer areas."

This means that learners who aren't able to pay school fees at partially subsidised schools can apply for "full, partial or conditional exemptions from the payment of school fees". In some instances, schools in wealthier suburbs will consider a fee exemption upon full disclosure of financials.

Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.