Single parents all over South Africa received some good news after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) made a decision that will help them when applying for school fees exemption, Randburg Sun reports.
They will no longer need their ex-spouses to qualify for a school fees exemption after the court ruling.
In 2016, the Western Cape High Court had recognised the immense burden faced by single parents when they have to apply for school fees exemption. However, the court maintained that both parents were liable for payment of school fees according to the South African Schools Act and therefore both parents needed to produce income statements when applying for exemption.
The SCA overturned the ruling this week on single mother Michelle Saffer’s case. Saffer is a divorced mother who applied for school fees exemption for her daughter in 2010 at Fish Hoek High School, Western Cape. She was unable to pay the required fees and applied for a fee exemption.
The school required her and her estranged ex-husband to fill in a form with the idea that both of them constituted a “family unit” even though she had custody of their daughter.
She found this process discriminatory, humiliating and unreasonable. Despite appeals to the Western Cape Education Department, Saffer’s fee exemption applications were ultimately rejected.
The Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) represented Saffer in challenging the refusals to grant her a fee exemption.
EELC said in a statement that in a vindication of Saffer’s rights, the Supreme Court of Appeal has set aside the refusal to grant Saffer a fee exemption and declared that in processing and dealing with Saffer’s fee exemption applications, the school and the school governing body subjected Saffer to repeated violations of her constitutional and statutory rights.
Furthermore, the court made it clear that in circumstances where one parent has 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. This conditional fee exemption shall be the total or partial fee exemption to which the applicant would have been entitled to if he or she were the only parent of the learner concerned.
The granting of such a conditional exemption will not limit the public school from taking legal steps to enforce payment by the other parent of the learner for the balance of the school fees. This ensures that non-custodial parents are held responsible where required.