Can I apply for a school fees subsidy as a single parent?
Since 2018, says LAW FOR ALL, whether separated or divorced, single parents’ fee exemption applications will be processed in relation to their individual circumstances.
The school says it's not their problem. (iStock)
Source

The issue of school subsidies can be confusing to cash-strapped parents, and this single dad is struggling with his application, so he reached out to us for answers.

"Can you please help me, I have applied for school fees subsidy and filled in all the papers and paid as much as I can for school fees, but they will not process my forms until my ex fills in hers.
She refuses to, and the school says it's not their problem.
The law states that both parents must fill it in, but the news article I read on News24 states otherwise. Do you know what the law is?
I urgently need your help."

We had an expert respond: 

According to South African law, single parents who are separated or divorced or never married can apply for a fee exemption for their children without their partners.

Since 2018, says LAW FOR ALL, whether separated or divorced, single parents’ fee exemption applications will be processed in relation to their individual circumstances.

Sue Larkin of Tabansi explains that both biological parents are jointly responsible for Public School Fees irrelevant of parental agreements or divorce orders, unless it is fully stipulated in a court order the amount the parent must contribute towards school fees. 

The school act is very clear that in public schools the School Governing Body may not decline an application or refuse an application if one parent is not co-operative in submitting documents, she says, whether or not they pertain to the calculation of the exemption as per the SASA means test. The SASA means test is based on the total gross income (salary, maintenance received, other income) of the applicant. 

Must read: School fee exemptions made easier for single parents

It is the school's responsibility to assist the applicant as a "single parent application" and the school cannot force the applicant to trace or be "punished" for the other parent's refusal to co operate. The school may trace and sue the other parent for the fees.  

It must be noted that the "other" parent has the same rights to apply for exemption or reduction in fees, and the school must offer that to them as well. Parents need to apply every year for exemption, it does not automatically carry over from the previous year.

A 2018 ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal stipulated that in circumstances where one parent refused or failed to provide their income details, public schools shall grant a conditional fee exemption to the custodial parent -  having regard only to her or his income. 

Therefore this school is acting in violation of this single father's constitutional and statutory rights, Larkin concludes. 

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