The implications of public school fees for educational performance and enrolment, with reference to the greater Durban area.
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This thesis is concerned with the implications of the new South African education system based on the South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 for educational performance and learners' enrolment in public schools. Central to the argument are the unfavourable consequences of the charging of school fees at public schools for learners from poor families. This is analysed based on a survey conducted in the Durban Metropolitan area between September and November 1998. As a legacy of apartheid education, inequalities between population groups are still evident (Chapter 1). One of the aims of the Act is the redress of past inequalities and permission to charge fees at public schools is seen as a measure to supplement the resources provided by the State (Chapter 2). Implications of school fees for school finance and redress of past inequalities between ex-departments are often discussed. However, little attention has been given to the impact of charging fees on learners' enrolment, which is the main focus of this thesis. There is a contradiction between permitting the charging of fees at public schools and the insistence on compulsory attendance in the Act. Given the financial constraints of South African schools, most schools are likely to adopt school fees. There may be many learners who may not be able to afford fees. Although the Act provides measures to prevent poor learners from being refused admission, it is questionable whether the measures provided by the Act function properly in practice. There would be poor learners who are effectively excluded from advantaged schools which charge high school fees. Past inequalities would not necessarily be redressed under the new system. As a result ofthe implementation ofthe Act, a kind of semi-privatisation within the public school sector could be introduced (Chapter 3). Analysis based on the research in Durban supports these hypotheses to some degree (Chapter 4). Recent incidents regarding the refusal by some public schools to admit learners on the basis of the parents' inability to pay school fees indicate the importance of this issue. Equal access to a basic education cannot be guaranteed under the current situation. Chapter 5 presents an alternative to the current system. If the State provided all public schools with the minimum operation costs necessary to run daily activities, the school would be able to substitute voluntary contributions for school fees. One possible way to release resources for this purpose is a reduction in personnel expenditure, including an acceptance of much higher pupil/teacher ratios. Although this is a controversial issue, it is inevitable for any society to seek a more productive system if it faces financial constraints.