Holy Ship Guys – Can We Talk About The Cost Of Schooling?

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?



13 thoughts on “Holy Ship Guys – Can We Talk About The Cost Of Schooling?

  1. Heather says:

    Your fees are definitely less than what we pay in Joburg! But I’m starting to acknowledge this is the advantage of having an only child. It’s all those extra things that add up.

  2. Cari-Lee Guthrie says:

    Nope! I cannot afford this life at all. My little ones are one & almost three in April . 1 year olds school charges me R2800, and 3 year old’s is R2600 per month, each with a R900 registration fee for the year.

    The little one has Kinect Kids at R330 a term & her older brother takes part in Cricket Champs R250/month and Rugga Kids also R250/month.

    For her it is still alright to just sign her up for the one of many extra activities but for him it is a bit different as he gets left behind whilst all his friends leave to go and play, how do I explain to him that sorry mommy cant afford for you to go play outside with a bat and ball??

    I am looking at R35820 a year for a 1 year old!! And R38100 for a 3 year old. That too excludes stationery, sunblock, nappies, toilet paper, water, snacks and the list goes on and on.

    I am living hand to mouth what with having to pay off a car, paying rent and all that jazz. Absolutely no extras to even think about getting a medical aid setup in case anything happens to them.

  3. Leanie says:

    I just want to mention that pre-school fees are more expensive, since they receive not extra funding from the education department than the other grades. I’m no mother, but My sister had a child in pre-school a few years ago and when he went higher up the fees were less, but after-school activity that he wanted to was Karate and that was expensive. I also know this, since I was a teacher myself.

    I take my hat of for you of being a good Mother to your children regarding buying school stationery. I had one parent that refused to purchased any stationary for his son. I taught grade 5 at that time and the textbooks and workbooks he received it for free. The school fees was only like R150 a month (township school) and parents complained about that amount that they had to pay! So I had to purchase out of my own pocket the basic pencils etc otherwise I would get the slack from the curriculum adviser etc that visit the school. And if the childrens work aren’t completed or done then we also get the “blame” and that affect our IQMS score as well.

    Being a teacher are like a walk in the park – the Triassic Park. Thank goodness i left that profession.

  4. Ashley says:

    There are definitely cheaper options available, but the difference is that you don’t get the same level of care that you would at a school where you pay a bit more. I’ve had first-hand experience with this. When we moved, we found a daycare that was around R1000 cheaper than the previous pre-school that we were sending our (then 14 month old) toddler. It seemed like a blessing. The cost of the fees included cooked meals for breakfast and lunch, so it saved us not only in fees, but in food too. After around 4 months we started noticing that her personality was regressing. She wasn’t improving in any way and in every photograph that the day mother sent me, my child looked like she had been crying. After being at the daycare for 8 months, we took her out of there and within 8 days of the new school, she was a different child. Yes, her school fees are around (now) R1500 more, and I have to send food, but the difference is phenomenal. We are lucky, in that we only have one child, and we both work and have fairly well-paying jobs, so when it comes to her care, we can make decisions based on level of care vs cost of care. But there are so very many families in SA that can’t make these decisions in the same way that we do. Yes, pre-school is definitely more expensive than school, in terms of upfront school fees, but they do hit you hard with the extra mural activities.

    This is such a tough one. It’s almost laughable to imagine that government would subsidise schooling, when they are so busy filling their pockets with as much cash as they can. At the end of the day, we do what we can with what we have… for some that means private schools, for some it’s good public schools and for some it’s not so good public schools.

  5. Sade says:

    Savings? Haha what is this that you speak of. Hahah. Seriously though we pay R2950 per month excluding the extra murals which is just over R500 a month. That’s for Grade RR. It’s crazy. We also choose a school that didn’t fit our budget but fitted our standards. We go without so our son gets a solid education foundation. It’s a priority and it’s a struggle for most working class people. Thank you for sharing though … So relatable

  6. Luchae Williams says:

    FOUR KIDS! FOUR SCHOOL FEES’S! Somebody get me a shovel, a shotgun and some rope…
    Okay, excuse the dramatics, but I just came here to say your pain is my pain. It is ridiculously expensive.

  7. Tanya says:

    There are still some excellent, well priced, public primary schools in CT but inevitably property in those areas are expensive as young families try to move in to get their kids into the school! Give a thought to families with special needs kids for whom public school is not an option 🙁 private school fees (let’s not even go there), extra therapies and usually further distances to travel. Not easy out there and I also often wonder how people are doing it. Especially when I see 3 siblings hop out of the car in front of my son’s uber expensive private school…

  8. Phumza says:

    We made it work by moving to a cheaper neighborhood, from northern suburbs to Midrand and the school was amazing. They’re now at Curro schools. We currently have 3 kids and expecting no.4 this March. We sacrifice a lot and don’t have a lot of luxuries that others can’t live without. It’s possible but it needs wisdom and lots of courage.

  9. Robyn says:

    I have 2 kids and where I stay in Jozi there is not much choice for schooling. Both my boys go to the same school and my eldest has to do OT and see the school psychologist every second week to help cope with the ridiculous pace they put 6 yo’s through. So school fees for both is about R10k a month and then all the extra’s are about R2k a month. Luckily the medical aid reimburses us for the OT and psychologist but that is never the full amount. And their grandmother graciously pays for all the extra murals. BUT with how fast little people grow and having to continuously buy bigger clothes and new shoes it really just becomes a downward spiral that makes one feel like you are losing grip on reality! It is crazy and I totally feel exactly as you do. But we want our kids to get a solid education foundation so we go without and live month to month.

  10. Himali Parikh says:

    yes, school fees are very high. It seems people who do not earn well, cannot enroll their kid in a good school. I have seen parents who think that if a school has high fees it is a good school. Which is just in their mind. I had to make a lot of effort in searching a moderate fee structure school for my 5-year-old.

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