Obligations of Independent Schools in South Africa
A report prepared by Oxford Pro Bono Publico for the Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria (June 2013)
This research was prepared to assist the Centre for Child Law in Pretoria, South Africa. In response to recent cases, the Centre asked Oxford Pro Bono Publico (‘OPBP’) to research the obligations that independent schools have in respect of the right to a basic education, enshrined in section 29 of the South African Constitution. The Centre had been working with a partner in Soweto, Johannesburg, on issues arising from the practices of some inner-city independent schools. When parents cannot pay fees, some schools follow the practice of suspending the learners until the parents are able to pay. Schools also sometimes withhold the children’s end-of-year results, which means the children cannot move into the public school system.
The report addresses two questions. First, do independent schools have obligations in respect of children’s right to a basic education? If so, where are these responsibilities derived from in law? Secondly, how are the content and extent of independent schools’ responsibilities in this area to be determined?
The report addresses these questions by analysing the South African legal position and drawing on comparative jurisprudence where appropriate.