South Africa’s most expensive state schools cost around R60,000 per year
- Public schooling in South Africa is still markedly cheaper than private schooling.
- Even public schools in plush suburbs are about a third of their private equivalents.
- Rates for high-end public schools aren't exactly low - with some pushing the R60,000 per year mark - while some high performing schools are still charging less than half this amount
- And girls-only schools, it turns out, are quite a lot cheaper than their all boy equivalents.
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South Africa’s most expensive public schools now cost between R50,000 and R60,000 per year - but there are still several that rank highly in sports and academics that cost significantly less.
By way of comparison, South Africa’s many expensive private day school comfortably cost triple this amount.
The country has a vast network of state-funded or partially private schools, which makes an exhaustive list of comparative fees complex to compile - but Business Insider identified a selection of schools from across the country that have made notable achievements in both sports and academics in order to compare their costs.
The most expensive state school found by Business Insider was Rondebosch Boys’ High School, where tuition costs R60,000 per year, and optional boarding another R53,600. The school is the highest ranked National Senior Certificate (NSC) boys school in the Western Cape, according to the province’s education department.
Rondebosch Boys’ High School is not the highest ranked overall, however - it’s in sixth place on the province’s NSC list, and behind public schools Westerford High School and Rustenburg Girls’ High School, which cost R42,972 and R51,175 respectively.
Across the country there are now at least nine public schools that attract fees in excess of R50,000 for the year, with the likes of Rondebosch Boys’ High School, Pretoria Boys’ High, King Edward VII School, Grey High School Port Elizabeth, and Parktown Boys’ High all charging more than R55,000 per year.
See also: South Africa’s most expensive day school now costs R200k per year - with many close behind
The remainder of the top ten, made up by South African College High School, Wynberg Boys’ High School, Rustenburg Girls High School, and Jeppe High School for Boys aren’t far behind, all cost more than R50,000 per year.
Although in some cases there is a direct correlation between a school’s performance on the rugby field, or in the classroom, and high fees, this is not always the case. Some schools that charge around the R30,000 mark have still achieved some admiral results.
Eunice High School in Bloemfontein, for example, charges R29,560 per year - less than half of the most expensive public schools - and it has achieved a 100% Matric pass rate for 35 consecutive years. In 2018, 97% of its 158 matriculants achieved a Bachelor's pass with 340 subject distinctions.
Girls cheaper than boys
An examination of public school fees in South Africa also revealed that - on the whole - it’s cheaper to send a girl to a gender specific public school than a boy. In some cases significantly so.
Of the schools identified by Business Insider as among the most expensive, only one - Rustenburg Girls’ High - accepts only girls.
In the case of Parktown High Schools, it’s R8,480 cheaper to send a child to the girls’ school over the boys’, and fees for Jeppe girls and boys differ by R13,500 per year.
Pretoria Boys’ High School, the second most expensive public school on Business Insider’s list, is R16,300 more expensive than Pretoria Girls’ High School.
Setting public school 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 a 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 a majority of 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”.
Here’s how fees at some of the country’s public schools compare:
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