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The rising cost of high school in South Africa

As a parent, it’s normal to aspire to give your child the best possible education to set them up for success in life. However, the rising cost of high school education in South Africa is a growing concern for many parents, even those who have historically been able to afford private schooling.
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The South African Bill of Rights says that everyone has the right to a basic education and further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make available and accessible. This, however, is often dependent on parents’ ability to pay school fees. 

The cost of high school education has increased significantly over the past decade, with the average cost of a public school now at R33 400. And many have increased their fees for 2023 by as much as between 7.8% and 11.5%, well above inflation. These trends are placing enormous pressure on families who are trying to strike the balance between giving their child the best education possible while ensuring that other household costs are covered. 

This article covers some of the reasons for the rising cost of schooling in South Africa, its effects, and some solutions to help parents prepare.

Why is the cost of high school in South Africa increasing?

Inflation and economic factors have contributed to the rising cost of high school education. According to the World Bank, South Africa's inflation rate was 4.6% in 2021, and this has had a significant impact on the cost of living. As a result, schools have increased their fees to keep up with inflation. Fees aside, inflation also affects other costs associated with school, such as uniforms, transportation, and textbooks. Additionally, economic challenges, such as high unemployment and slow economic growth, have made it difficult for families to afford the rising cost of high school education.

Another reason for the rising cost of high school education is the increased demand for quality education. The number of students enrolled in independent schools in South Africa is increasing and has led to an increase in tuition fees, which can make it increasingly difficult for families to afford private education.

How can parents prepare for the increasing cost of education?

Starting your financial planning as early as possible is the best way to prepare your family for the rising cost of education. High school is a five-year commitment and if you have more than one child, you can expect your costs to double when the younger child starts grade 8. Use our Cost Calculator to work out exactly how much high school will cost your family. This type of budgeting exercise will help you to adjust your monthly budget accordingly and consider different schooling options available to you.

Some considerations that may emerge from this exercise include:

  • Starting a long-term savings account and ensuring that you keep up with your contributions can help you take advantage of compound interest and build up funds for when your youngest child enters high school.
  • Enrolling in an online high school can help to mitigate some of these rising costs, especially when you consider the hidden costs of traditional schooling. Many families spend up to R500 a week on taxi fees or other transport costs to get to and from school. Uniforms, textbook costs and extramurals all contribute to additional costs over and above school fees. 

UCT Online High School in partnership with Valenture Institute has released a white paper about the real cost of high school in South Africa. Access this paper to understand more about how education costs have escalated over the past 12 years, and get a sense for how those costs are likely to continue to rise over the next decade, as well as practical steps and recommendations to help you as a parent make informed decisions about schooling.

Download the free guide here

Want to find out more about how you can save with UCT Online High School?

Visit our Fees page to learn more about our affordable offerings.

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