A number of Free State schools, especially no-fee schools, are facing closure. This difficult situation is the direct consequence of the Free State Education Department’s negligence in making the annual payments to schools. Provincial education departments are responsible to distribute these payments from the National Treasury twice a year to schools. In the Free State these payments are made quarterly, however the last payment was made in the third quarter of last year. Schools use this money to pay for running costs such as electricity, water, stationary, etc.
“We are aware of a school with about R400 in their account. In another instance a school principal paid the school’s electricity account from her own pocket. At yet another school a parent paid for the entire school’s stationary in order to ensure that education can take place,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, Deputy CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS).
Deacon says the National Treasury pays the money to provincial education departments on 1 April each year. “However, most education departments drag their feet in paying this money to schools, which means that the current year’s payments are often used to pay the previous year’s debt. In this Free State even this did not happen.”
In the past FEDSAS made numerous efforts to work together with the Free State Education Department in order to solve problems. “However, we are receiving no cooperation from the Department and thus have no other option but to bring an urgent application before the court. This lack of payment is an infringement of children’s constitutional right to education. Schools, especially no-fee schools, already struggle to make ends meet and for many there will soon be no other option but to close down,” says Deacon.
Deacon says FEDSAS prefers solving education crises outside of the courtroom through cooperation. “However, the rights of the child will always come first and in this case the crisis has escalated to the extent that FEDSAS has to take drastic measures.”