Before I go too deep down this spiraling rabbit hole of school fees, can I just say that I appreciate teachers. I appreciate the men and women that teach my kids things that I can’t, who look after them and keep them safe while I work my butt off to afford their services. I do not mean this post as an insult in any way, you guys probably do not get paid nearly enough for what you have to put up with on a daily basis!
I understand that salaries need to be paid, that there are running costs and I am pretty sure you all need to be on a pretty heavy dose of Xanax (and that ain’t cheap). I mean, I know the cost of education is priceless and all that jazz, but how do people in this country actually afford it? And by afford it I don’t mean managing to pay your school fees every month, but scraping by on your asses with no extra money to put away for emergencies.
I think one of my most shocking parenting moments came when I started looking at preschools for my kids. First, I was shocked by how insanely expensive they were. I mean at the tender age of three, we’re talking about crayon scribbles, macaroni art and learning circles from triangles, right?
Where we live, we have a choice between three schools for Knox (preschools) – School 1 @ R2650 per month (but with a R3500 deposit and excluding aftercare facilities), School 2 @ R3090 per month (with a R600 deposit and including aftercare facilities) and School 3 @R4200 per month (no deposit and including aftercare). For Mikayla (pre-primary) there is only two options – School A @ R 2800 per month including aftercare and School B @ R3500 per month excluding aftercare. So, for the schools we have selected we stand at the below for school fees and aftercare only:
Knox – R37 080 per year
Mikayla – R30 800 per year
We selected the schools based on what would be the best fit for our kids, not taking the finances into account. That being said, the second thing that was a bit of a shock was the waiting list thing. I had (mistakenly) thought that waiting lists for schools (especially pre-schools) was pretty ridiculous, something that you would only see on reality TV or if you sent your kid to some insane private school where they learn 7 different languages and how to curtsy – certainly not in real life or in the semi-private and public sector. Well, it is real. And it is not just a list with a couple of kids waiting to get in before your kid, some schools have waiting lists up to two years long! Do you know how I know that? Because Knox was on the waiting list for a year and half before he was accepted, and he was only accepted because his sister was accepted to her school. It is one hell of a complicated mess.
Now that school fees and aftercare is sorted, lets take into account the annual placement fee for School 2 and the annual sports Levy of R1000 for School A. Also, the R200 placement fee for School A’s aftercare program. That brings our total to:
Knox – R37 680 per year
Mikayla – R32 000 per year
I am not going to add school lunches to the equation, as your kids would need to eat whether they are at home or at school. Both of my kids, however, have a “tuck shop day” for school fundraising once a week where they each need to take R10. Adding another R120 to each of their yearly fees. Then we need to remember all the other fundraisers, like sivvies days, hotdog days, sports days – you name it. I think it is safe to say that you can add another R200 per child onto the amount.
Then there is stationery. Luckily Knox’s stationary is included in his school fees, but Mikayla’s stationary (supposedly for the year, but I don’t see that happening) was about R700. School uniforms & sports clothes on the other hand set me back about R1300. That brings our new total to:
Knox – R37 680 per year
Mikayla – R34 000 per year
Extramurals is probably my biggest irritation. Yes, doing sport is healthy and being creative is important – but Knox’s school alone offers about 8 extramurals – each at ± R400 – R600 per term. With Mikayla there are the usual school sports that are included in the school fees, but equipment is needed for tennis and hockey, and uniforms for netball. Either way, you would be forking out another R500 – R600. She also has extra murals that are not part of the school, also ranging between R400-R600 per month. Now I let my kids choose one extra mural each, and then Mikayla got to choose which sports she would like to take part in. That brings the total to:
Knox – R39 680 per year – which is R3306,66 per month
Mikayla – R36 500 per year – which is R3041 per month
Guys, that’s R6347,66 per month to put my two kids through school – not private school or international education… just school. Let’s not even factor in the petrol costs taking and fetching them, and the mountains of dr. bills due to all those nasty school germs.
Good education is important, but how are people affording this? Our kids come first, their education comes first, their needs come first – so we make a plan and we make it happen. My problem is that due to high school fees, high rent, high interest rates – parents can no longer afford to put money away for emergencies or for further education. School fee increases also far outpace salary growth each year, and together with rental increases and petrol price hikes… where do we keep finding the money?
Maybe it is just me, maybe I am just really terrible with finances… I just can’t think how people who have more than one child, and earn a combined income of less than R30 000 a month after tax actually make it work… Is everyone just in a crap load of debt? Or is there some secret to the universe that I have not figured out yet?
I am truly grateful that we were able to place our kids in amazing schools, but my heart also breaks for the parents who had no choice but to put their kids in schools that are less than ideal. Schools where the teachers bunk classes, where there is no running water, no text books, no shade or grass… I really do feel for them.
I suppose this was a bit of a verbal diarrhea blog post, I am just always looking at ways to save money and figure out how to better my family’s standard of life with what we have.
How do you do it? Do you feel school fees are too expensive? What do you do to make ends meet. Are you able to put money away in savings at the end of each month?